Republican Martha McSally is running for election against Democratic Rep. Ron Barber this November, and with student loan debt affecting residents and voters in Pima County, education has become a hot issue for the candidates.
According to the Huffington Post, there are more people in the U.S. with outstanding loan debt than there are people living in Canada. With student loan debt affecting over 40 million people, it is an issue that most elected officials are versed in.
McSally has three federally funded degrees. She earned her first degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and then earned master’s degrees from Harvard University and the Air War College.
“I am passionate about education and making sure higher education is affordable and available,” McSally said.
McSally said that she supports federally funded financial student aids like Pell Grants and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides federal assistance to combat veterans. She said that she is committed to finding solutions that bring the cost for students down and making sure there are jobs for college graduates.
Interest rates are becoming a problem for college students with loans. According to the Project on Student Debt, over 50 percent of residents in Arizona have student loan debt, and the average amount of debt is over $20,000. High interest rates greatly increase the amount of money these residents owe.
McSally said she would be interested in securing the interest rate on an individual level and making sure each person has a fixed interest rate when they begin their education.
McSally added while interest rates are an important part of solving student debt, the rising cost of education is what needs to be addressed. She said while she plans to do everything she can to fix the problem, she doesn’t believe the federal government can solve all of the issues for students. Some solutions have to come locally, and some have to come from the state.
“It’s great that you have access to those loans,” McSally said, “but you still leave college with debt and a tough job market.”
McSally said the cost of education going up dramatically in the last decade also depends on the economy. She said people “have to help the economy” in order to ensure that college graduates have jobs once they graduate. According to McSally, student loans hurt the already hurting economy, because a person with student loan debt is less likely to buy a house or a car.
McSally also said that K-12 education needs to be improved. She said she hopes to create education standards for K-12 schools that are locally driven.
“Let teachers teach,” McSally said about government officials creating education standards.
Once students get closer to college, McSally said she thinks students and parents need to be thoroughly educated on the implications of education, because higher education can be confusing.
“We need to simplify the process,” McSally said.
McSally said she is very passionate about higher education and hopes to make a positive difference if she is elected.“If I get elected, I hope to continue the dialogue about transparency with college and higher education,” McSally said.
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