WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana's U.S. Senate candidates agree keeping the cost of higher education low is a priority in the 2018 election. However, they cite different ways to achieve it, and it appears they're both taking pages from Purdue President Mitch Daniels' book in their reasoning.
In a recent debate on Oct. 8, Republican Mike Braun and Democrat Joe Donnelly answered the question: "What, if anything, can Congress do to increase higher education degree attainment, while reigning in excessive student loan debt." While the candidates seem to be finding just about everything to debate before election day, President Daniels finds unity in this question.
"I can't think of many subjects that folks agree on, across party lines, more than the affordability of education," said Daniels. "Here on this campus, we have every stripe of opinion, and thank goodness. That's the way we want it. But one thing, as far as I can tell, every faculty member, every staff person, all our alumni agrees with is that we want higher education, especially here, to be accessible to people."
To achieve affordability of education, Donnelly said maximizing Pell Grants and freezing tuition, like Purdue has done for seven years now, is the answer.
"If you freeze tuition for all of them, it helps them in year one, year two, year three, year four," said Donnelly. "It's your pocketbook, it's our kid's pocketbook. It's saving money, and that is what we should do."
Braun aligned himself with Daniels, citing other ways he would bring Purdue's successful ideas to Washington.
"'I'm proud that you've frozen tuition at Purdue for the third year," said Braun recalling a previous conversation with Daniels. "What are you going to do to keep costs actually down? He rattled off three things that were impressive. (He said) 'Going to make sure we buy things right off all locations (abbreviated). Going to make sure we look at our benefits program to make sure it's sustainable.' And then he said 'I want to make a four-year degree a three-year degree.' That's going to be the difference between someone like me, and someone who has been there as part of the problem."
"I'm glad they're discussing it and debating it," said Daniels. "I'm not surprised. There are different ways to approach it. I hope it stays on that plane. Let's agree about the goal now. How can we best achieve it?"
The goal Daniels hopes is achieved?
"I hope that candidates in both parties everywhere, not just here, think about the debt we are leaving to these students," said Daniels. When we are going to get serious and "adult" as a nation about making some adjustments that saves the safety net, which is in jeopardy of imploding, for those who really need it? Do not do an injustice to young people on this campus and elsewhere."
Which is why he hopes Purdue students vote on or before Nov. 6.
"I don't care whether they vote here or absentee in the state they came from," said Daniels. "But I don't know a better way that encouraging them to think about how their futures are being effected by decisions being made right now."
Daniels ended with a sentiment that we've heard before.
"Again whatever their view (candidates) of specific issues, they all think a little harder about trying to bring people together, have a little more understanding for folks who see the world differently and try to back us up from this corner of antipithy that we seem to have wondered into."