Messaging is everything. The call for free college and college debt forgiveness isn’t playing out well. It feels like a program to help individuals, individuals who may be doing better than average. It’s another campaign speech removed from the daily grind of getting by, trying to stay afloat, one paycheck from financial ruin.

But it need not be. Other countries support education, not for individuals but to benefit the whole. Let’s put the discussion on college tuition where it belongs, as part of a discussion to change our economy.

Let’s start with a more progressive angle. What skills are missing? What sector of the population is left out and how can government help? Is it apprenticeships? Is it community college? What college degrees does the economy need? How do we address income inequality so even those without a college degree thrive? What industries can survive in rural areas so opportunities flow out to more vulnerable populations?

Student debt affects the economy. But let’s be honest: Graduates making $200,000-plus per year are probably OK. They own cars, houses and medical insurance. Teachers starting at under $40,000, not so much. Many graduates during the Great Recession have been underemployed or unemployed for a decade. Who should pay and what is fair?

The U.S. economy is plagued with income inequality and families who cannot secure a sustainable wage. We don’t have the luxury of benefiting college graduates without addressing the economy as a whole. The message that voters hear should include everyone.

Nadine Bangerter


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