Where They Stand: Student Issues

Q&As with the candidates

Tuesday’s election could shape the future of a number of issues affecting Harvard students. We asked the candidates for Massachusetts’ junior U.S. Senate seat and Massachusetts Fifth Congressional District seat to share how they would approach five important student-related issues if elected. Their responses are printed in full below.

The Questions:

1. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent nationally in September, reaching its lowest point in four years. But college graduates still face one of the most difficult job markets in decades. If elected, what concrete proposals would you support to create jobs and help get young people back to work?

2. With university endowments stagnant and the cost of higher education on the rise, would you support measures to increase funding for federal financial aid in the form of either grants or low-interest loans?

3. If elected to Congress, you will likely have to make difficult decisions to address the growing federal deficit. In this situation, what would be the most important programs to protect, and how would you approach federal research funding?

4. Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the costs of healthcare in this country continue to rise at a potentially crippling pace. What is your view of the ACA and what would you do to further health care reform in this country?

5. While President Barack Obama’s executive order announced this summer has given breathing room to millions of college students brought here illegally as children, it is not a permanent solution. Do you support the DREAM Act, and if not, how do you propose reforming the country’s immigration policy?

Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren's Responses:

1. It’s clear we need to take action to make sure our college graduates have access to jobs, so young people aren’t struggling to make ends meet and facing crushing student loan debt.

We have both a short-term jobs problem and a long-term jobs problem. Right now, we need to put people to work. Without a job and a paycheck, people can’t spend money, and that hurts businesses and depresses the economy. In the longer term, we need to invest in our future to create the conditions for our people to prosper and our economy to grow. That means investing in infrastructure, education, and research.

Jumpstarting the economy right now and creating the conditions for future growth will help make sure businesses can succeed and young people can find good jobs.

2. Yes, I support keeping interest rates low and making sure that students have access to Pell Grants and other financial aid so they can pay for college. This is ultimately about our priorities. We should not be giving subsidies to oil companies and tax breaks to billionaires, while students are taking on more and more debt. I grew up in an America that invested in its kids. I went to a commuter college where I paid $50 a semester in tuition. Today, students across the country have more than $1 trillion total in student loan debt. We need to make investing in education a priority again, so that everyone who wants to can afford to go to college. This will help strengthen our economy and make sure all our young people have a real shot at success.

3. This is a question about values, and what kind of a future we want to build. We need a balanced approach to reducing the deficit that includes both spending cuts and additional revenues. Scott Brown and I both submitted our economic proposals to the Boston Globe, and independent analysis found that my proposals were 67 percent more effective at reducing the debt. I oppose cutting programs like Medicare and Social Security, which are critical for so many Americans. We need to protect and strengthen those programs. We also need to prioritize investments in education, infrastructure, and research—the pipeline of ideas that helps businesses grow and succeed. I believe that by asking those at the top to pay a fair share and making the right cuts in spending, such as ending tax breaks to big oil, we can close the deficit and build a better future.

4. The Affordable Care Act has helped ensure that millions of children, seniors, and families can get access to high quality, affordable health care, and fair treatment from insurance companies. It has let kids stay on their parents insurance until age 26, helped seniors pay for prescription drugs, and ensured that women can get preventive services like mammograms at no cost. I’m committed to protecting President Obama’s health care reform law, which is already making a difference for so many people here in the Commonwealth and across the country. We should not refight the health care battles of the past, we should work to make health care reform more effective and move on to other urgent challenges we face.

Now we need to focus on slowing the growth of health care costs. About half of all families in bankruptcy are there in the aftermath of a serious medical problem, and millions more are under enormous financial pressure when a loved one is ill. Massachusetts has been a leader in developing innovative ways to improve quality while reducing costs, and we are a leader in medical research that can lead to breakthroughs that save both lives and costs. We must do more to lead the way to a more affordable and higher quality system.

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