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PolitiFact: Democrats accurately attack Donald Trump's threadbare college affordability plans

Posted at 5:56 PM, Jun 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-30 01:31:43-04

What would Donald Trump do to lower the cost of higher education as president?

Absolutely nothing, says Nevada Democratic Party chairwoman Roberta Lange, who along with fellow Democrats has constantly berated Trump in press conferences and news releases.

Here’s what she said after aMoody’s report claimed Trump’s proposed economic policies would result in millions of lost jobs and a contracting economy.

"He says ‘wages are too high’ and has literally no plans to make higher education more affordable," she said ina press release.

So is it true that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has "literally no plans" to make higher education more affordable?

After reviewing the candidate’s stated policy positions and various media appearances, we’re pretty confident in saying that Trump has no clearly defined plan to reduce the cost of higher education.

Schooling Trump

Higher education reform and student loan debt are not detailed on Trump’s campaign website — his "Issues" and "Positions" pages don’t touch on education outside of twoshortvideos of the candidate promising to repeal Common Core. (The federal government isprohibited from directing states to adopt or not adopt the standards.)

The Trump campaign didn’t return emails seeking comment, but the candidate has mentioned student loan debt and the rising cost of college on a few occasions.

In a 22-secondTwitter video from last year, Trump called student loan debt a "tremendous problem," but he only made a vague promise to "restructure" it and make college more affordable.

Trump also indirectly addressed rising student loan debt during aquestion-and-answer session with students at Simpson College in Iowa, acknowledging it as a "huge problem" but identifying job creation and "great leadership" as ways to fix the problem.

But other than a handful of interviews, Trump hasn’t described how exactly he’d make college more affordable.

It’s a far cry from 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who in May 2012released a 35-page white paper in part detailing his plans to reshape higher education policy. And 2008 GOP nominee John McCain also proposedseveral specific higher education policy changes on his campaign website.

Trump’s likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has spoken at length about her plans for higher education. She released her "New College Compact" plan in August 2015.

The closest thing the Trump campaign has to a "higher education plan" was revealed in a Inside Higher Ed interview with Trump’s national co-chairman and policy director, Sam Clovis.

Clovis said a Trump administration would focus on overhauling the student loan system by transitioning the responsibility for lending from the government to private banks, and floated the idea of basing loan eligibility onwhich majors college students pick.

"If you are going to study 16th century French art, more power to you. I support the arts," Clovis said in aMay interview. "But you are not going to get a job."

So Trump’s closest thing to a higher education "plan" is returning to a system where private banks, not the federal government, would extend loans to students while requiring colleges to have more "skin in the game."

As PolitiFact haspreviously reported, the federal government in 1965 took several steps to help more students attend college, including guaranteeing loans against default and promising a set interest rate to banks extending the loans to students.

That changed in 2010, when Democrats approved a new law cutting out the bank subsidies and replacing them with direct loans overseen by federal agencies and funded by the U.S. Treasury.

High-profile critics, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have panned the change as generating profit on the backs of over-burdened college students, but it’s not clear that a shift to the old system or Trump’s proposal would make college cheaper.

Our ruling

Nevada Democratic Party chair Roberta Lange says Donald Trump "literally has no plans to make higher education more affordable."

Trump hasn’t released any sort of traditional higher education reform plan — much less any details on how to make college more affordable — unlike Clinton, Romney and McCain. However, Trump has commented several times on the spiraling cost of student loan debt and said he doesn’t want the federal government making a profit on the backs of students.

For Trump's lack of specifics, we rate Lange's statement Mostly True.