Some might consider me a rare breed or perhaps claim that I am even non-existent. I am a Millennial, and I support Hillary Clinton. That's right, you read that correctly. I am a 21-year-old white college male, and I proudly support Secretary Clinton. "Why?" you ask. Well, just like a multitude of my friends and peers, I, too, fell in love with Senator Bernie Sanders many months ago. I was the stereotypical liberal millennial in the Starbucks drive-thru with a Bernie bumper sticker on his Honda. I get it, and I understand what you are feeling. It's fun to think about being a part of a "revolution" and a "movement" across the country as we stand up and we shout "enough is enough," but... is that thought and feeling alone really enough?
It was back in the summer as I was scrolling through Facebook when I noticed one of my close friends had RSVP'd to a political campaign event in the area for a Senator from Vermont who had recently announced he was running for president. It being my first presidential election eligible to vote, I immediately asked to join him and "go see what this Bernie guy was all about." The event was a house party hosted by an avid supporter of his. There were house parties taking place all across the country that evening where Senator Sanders would then give a live speech online for each house to tune into. The minute the man opened his mouth I remember thinking to myself, “He has to be our next president.” I loved everything the man was saying. From pointing out the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, to the top 1 percent controlling 99 percent of the wealth in this country. I was in love.
Summer turned to fall, and I continued to watch him give the same message at many of his rallies and through online videos. October arrived and it was time for the very first Democratic debate of the season. My university hosted a watch party as many of us gathered anxiously awaiting Senator Sanders to make the other candidates ‘feel the Bern,’ except the other candidates made him ‘feel the Bern,’ particularly Hillary. She came across as a leader, as experienced and as presidential. She was very knowledgeable about the various subjects, for she went into great detail when asked a specific question, whereas Bernie would shout the same one-liners I had heard for the past four months over and over without any explanation of how he would execute anything he was saying. I thought Bernie had not performed too well, but I gave him a break… after all, it was just the first debate. “He will do better and go into more detail in the next debate,” I told myself. Except… nine debates later, he is still shouting the same one-liners that I first heard in the early summer months without going into great detail of how he will accomplish the promises he was making.
A week after the first debate I was asked by one of my peers to attend a Hillary Clinton rally with him. “Of course!” I quickly responded. I was thrilled at the thought of seeing the Hillary Clinton, for I was never really a part of the “I hate Hillary club” like many of my Bernie-supporting friends. We left east Tennessee in the early morning and drove eight long hours to Alexandria, Virginia. When arriving at the event we quickly realized we were some of the first people there; therefore I was incredibly excited that I would be right up at the rope line, and I might even get to shake the Hillary Clinton’s hand. As soon as the event area was opened, my friend and I ran right up to the rope line hoping to meet her. The area began to fill in over the course of the next hour as everyone huddled close together awaiting the most admired woman in the world. While the crowd entertained themselves with various chants and cheers, I quietly stood and simply observed. There was every kind of person you could think of in attendance. I saw an elderly man with a sign that read “Vets for Hillary,” a woman holding a sign that read “Elect Women Now” and I even saw a young male, probably around my age, holding a sign that read “Millennials for Hillary.”
It was time for the woman we were all there to see to walk out, and of course, it was only appropriate (it being the day after the Benghazi hearing) for her to walk out to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You).” She walked up onto the platform as confident as ever, and I could not have been more impressed with the way she presented herself. As she looked over at my side of the stage, the crowd around me began to chant, “I’m with her! I’m with her!” Hillary Clinton impressed this young democrat that day as she jumped right into all of the issues facing Americans today and the issues that matter most. She discussed income inequality, along with raising the minimum wage, ensuring woman receive equal pay for equal work, affordable childcare, institutional racism, building on the progress of President Obama and continuing to expand health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She then posed the question, “How many of you in this crowd have student debt?” Being the average college student in debt, I raised my hand. She then looked exactly at me and pointed while saying, “Well, I have a plan to get you out from under that student debt, so you can move on with your life and become productive.” Aside from being mesmerized at the fact Hillary Clinton had just looked directly at me and was speaking to me, I had not once heard Bernie Sanders mention doubling down on the student debt that already exists. Of course I had heard his plan to make college tuition free in the future, but I had never heard him discuss student debt facing many Americans currently.
After Hillary finished her speech she ended with “I want to break down all the barriers facing America, for this isn’t a one issue country. I hope that you will join this campaign and support me in the primary because I am a progressive who gets things done.” This statement would linger in my head in the following months when considering who to vote for. She waved to the crowd one last time and began to walk down the steps off the stage. She looked directly at me once more, for I was standing at the bottom of the side stairs, just to the left of the platform. I was the very first person she came to when coming off the stage. I was in such shock at the fact Hillary Clinton was standing right in front of me -- a strong Sanders supporter since the summer. I was acting like a fangirl at a Justin Bieber concert. She had a presence that made me light up and turn into a giddy school girl. As I opened my mouth nervously, I stumbled through the words, “Thank you for discussing student debt, this is something that is going to drastically affect me upon graduating.” She replied with the most confident look I had ever seen upon anyone, “We are going to knock down that barrier for you together, but I need you.” In that moment, I felt in my heart that she sincerely wanted to help me, a college student from east Tennessee, become more productive and improve my life by helping me with this specific issue and this burden. She shook my hand and made her way down the rope line.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I began to study deeply the websites of both candidates. When examining Bernie Sanders website on the issue of student debt, he basically states that he wants to reduce student loan rates, stop the government from making a profit on student loans and allow refinancing and…that is it. Once again, in less than 200 words, he simply tells me what he wants to do, but he doesn't tell me how he is going to do it. I then examined Secretary Clinton’s website on this issue, and in nearly 1,000 words, it explains the following:
To reduce rates through refinancing, Clinton's plan will:
1. Enable millions of borrowers locked in at high interest rates to cut their rates by refinancing at the current federal rate for student loans. The vast majority of federal borrowers will be eligible, as are private borrowers who are current on their loans.
To simplify income-based repayment for all current borrowers, Clinton's plan will:
1. Consolidate the four income-based repayment programs into a single program with the same rules for everyone. Every student borrower will know they can enroll in a program where they never have to pay more than 10 percent of income, with college debt forgiven after 20 years so that those who consistently make payments can move on with their lives.
2. Make enrollment a snap by simplifying the arcane loan consolidation process, ensuring borrowers have access to counseling and requiring services to tell them their options.
3. Use technology to streamline the enrollment process for borrowers, drawing on existing government data. Many borrowers will opt to have their student loan payments deducted from their paycheck, which facilitates repayment and improves government efficiency.
4. Help borrowers who are delinquent or in default. Delinquent borrowers will receive additional help to enroll in income-based repayment to protect their credit, and borrowers in default will be given new rehabilitation and repayment options to help them get back on their feet.
To reduce the burden for future borrowers, Clinton's plan will:
1. Significantly cut interest rates on undergraduate student loans. Going forward, Clinton’s plan will significantly cut interest rates so that the government does not profit from undergraduate student loans -- reducing monthly payments for student borrowers.
To stop predatory schools, lenders, and bill collectors, Clinton's plan will:
1. Enact a new Borrower Bill of Rights to ensure accurate and timely advice on repayment options, including income-based modification for private borrowers who are in distress, and pursue a robust enforcement agenda to protect those rights. These standards will also be privately enforceable so that borrowers can assert their rights even when regulators fall short, which will further deter malfeasance by lenders and servicers.
2. Ban repeat offenders - the servicers and bill collectors who consistently break the law and mislead or overcharge borrowers -- from contracts to service federal loans, and have zero tolerance for firms that overcharge service members and veterans.
3. Grant the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the power to put into place strong consumer protections to ensure all borrowers understand all their options during the entire lifecycle of a student loan, and are not misled by either lenders or bill collectors.
4. Help defrauded students discharge debt. In addition to pursuing every possible legal remedy against schools like Corinthian that defraud students, Clinton will streamline the process by which students can cancel their debt so that it is not so cumbersome. She will also give defrauded GI Bill students another chance to use the education support they have earned.
The Cost -- and How We Will Pay It
Clinton's New College Compact plan costs in the range of $350 billion over 10 years ,and will be fully paid for by closing tax loopholes and expenditures for the most fortunate. We need to make ambitious investments so that cost is no longer a barrier to college education, and the burden of debt does not hold back everyday Americans.
More than half of the total will go towards grants to states and colleges. These grants will ensure that students do not need to take out loans for tuition, and that support will also help reduce the burden of living expenses at four-year public colleges. They will provide free tuition at community colleges, support private non-profit colleges that keep costs low and provide value and relieve debt for students who commit to national service. These new grants will be paired with holding states and colleges accountable for bringing down costs.
Around one-third of the funds will go toward relief on interest from student debt. This includes allowing every American with outstanding public debt to refinance their student loans at today’s low interest rates, cutting interest rates to reflect the government’s low cost of debt and making it far easier for students to enroll in income-based repayment that limits crushing debt.
The remaining funds will support innovative, new investments to create a higher education system for the 21st Century. That means new funds to expand new models of life-long learning, rewarding college completion and enrollment and broadening support for student parents. Some of these costs will be offset by risk-sharing with colleges.
As you can see, her plan to tackle student loan debt, one of the issues that matters and effects me the most as a college student, is thoroughly detailed with an actual plan. After digging deep into this and discovering which candidate is prepared with a plan to actually produce results in this area, I realized this candidate is Hillary Clinton, and she won over this millennial. So once again, I say thank you Secretary Clinton for discussing this issue that is so burdensome to millions of college students and graduates like myself, and for actually providing a detailed plan on how to produce results in this area.
I urge every single millennial to journey to both of the candidates websites and study them with much thought and come to your own conclusion on which candidate has more to offer, is prepared with detailed plans and is more likely to produce results.