Affordable College, Apprenticeships, and Skills Training

The student loan debt crisis is a national emergency. All Americans deserve the chance to pursue higher education without the crippling burden of student loan debt.

To create a modern, well-compensated workforce, we must have a higher education strategy that tackles the student loan crisis without forgetting the two-thirds of Americans who won’t get a four-year degree.

The size of student loan debt is a national emergency, with devastating, long-lasting effects rippling through our economy, directly and indirectly affecting every American. The 44 million Americans with student loans have been forced to put their lives on hold — delaying their first home purchase, waiting to get married and start families, putting off saving for retirement, and inhibiting entrepreneurship and small business creation. [1] By effectively addressing the student loan crisis, Hickenlooper will unleash a new era of America economic dynamism and growth.

Hickenlooper is equally focused on the forgotten two-thirds of Americans who will not receive a four-year degree. As President, he will invest in a “free skills” program, to ensure that every American is able to access the skills training they need to pursue their version of the American dream.

Addressing the Cost of Higher Education

The cost of college has soared over the last thirty years, dramatically outpacing inflation. College costs have grown eight times faster than wage growth over the last 30 years. [2] This is unsustainable. Instead of investing in our next generation and our workforce, states have significantly cut higher education funding. [3] And universities, responding to the availability of student loans, have allowed tuition to skyrocket. As President, Hickenlooper will:

  • Increase federal funding for public colleges and universities
  • Include incentives designed to increase state investment
  • Present a budget that ties certain federal grants with requirements for states to provide their share of funding as well as containing cost control requirements on universities.

Hickenlooper knows it will take a team effort to achieve cost control.

Cutting Student Loan Rates

The federal government is far and away the largest provider of student loans and has a responsibility to significantly lower interest rates. Hickenlooper will:

  • Cut the federal interest rate on all student loans — undergraduate and graduate — to 2.5%, matching the current 10-year Treasury rate. This will reset the student loan market, allowing millions of students to easily refinance, and will conservatively save an average student borrower over $4,000. [4]
  • Restore the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — which has been gutted by the Trump Administration to favor mega-corporations over consumers — to again aggressively advocate for consumers, standing up to predatory for-profit universities and fraudulent student loan collectors.

Skills Training & Free Community College

Hickenlooper is passionate about serving the two-thirds of Americans who won’t obtain a four- year college degree. As President, Hickenlooper will make the largest investment in apprenticeship and skills training in the nation’s history.

First, he will make community college free for all Americans — young and old — who can’t afford it. This program is now a reality in nearly 20 states, but it’s time we expand it to all Americans. [5]

Next, Hickenlooper will scale Colorado’s successful CareerWise program, which offers high school students the opportunity to apprentice with all types of businesses, from banking to manufacturing, while earning college credit (at no cost to the students) and a paycheck (earning thousands of dollars in wages by the time students graduate). [6]

Hickenlooper created this program in Colorado by bringing people together and unleashing the power of government funding, nonprofit support and corporate opportunity. These programs are win-win, they provide students with transferable skills and a paycheck, while helping businesses who are eager to fill key middle-skills jobs. [7] The program has since been replicated in more than a dozen states.

As President, Hickenlooper will bring CareerWise to the national level. Hickenlooper will incentivize companies to provide apprenticeships and he will also allow Pell grants to be used to pay for apprenticeships, not just for college.

The program will quickly become self-sustaining as both the apprentice and the hiring business benefit from the apprenticeship. Companies will realize positive ROI based on the value of the apprentices’ work, reduce turnover costs and create a talent pipeline of skilled workers for hard-to-fill positions. [8]

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