Episode #47: Presidential Candidates On Higher Education with Rachelle Peterson

Peter Wood

In this episode, NAS Policy Director Rachelle Peterson sits down with Peter to discuss where presidential candidates stand on higher education. They walk through the competing “free college” plans and student loan debt forgiveness, and then talk about two competing bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. (NAS supports neither one.) Rachelle also shares some good news from the Department of Education, which is listening to NAS’s advice on foreign gift disclosures.

(Note: We recorded this podcast before Kamala Harris suspended her presidential campaign.)

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Rachelle and our new chart, “Presidential Candidates on Higher Education.”

1:16 Rachelle gives a 10,000-foot view of the higher ed plans from the top five Democratic contenders, as well as from President Donald Trump.

5:50 How do the different free college plans compare—and what colleges would be affected?

18:50 Peter wonders aloud: If a President Sanders gets free college enacted into law, could a future president use that power to abolish identity studies programs and end affirmative action? And why don’t Republicans propose more aggressive higher education plans?

25:59 What is the difference between “free college” and “debt-free college?”

29:00 Peter ponders whether he should make a career as a professional student, living off federal student aid.

34:01 Peter and Rachelle discuss the various debt-forgiveness plans circulated by Democratic contenders.

42:00 Would more students go to college if these plans were implemented?

49:15 Peter and Rachelle discuss President Trump’s record on higher education.

53:26 President Trump has taken a strong stance against Chinese government interference in higher education.

57:30 Rachelle summarizes two competing bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act: the College Affordability Act and the Student Aid Improvement Act.

59:20 NAS recently succeeded in promoting new foreign gift disclosure policies.


Rachelle Peterson, “Presidential Candidates on Higher Education,” National Association of Scholars, November 13, 2019.

Rachelle Peterson, “Democrats’ Higher Ed Plan,” The Federalist, December 3, 2019.

NAS Comments on Proposed Foreign Disclosure Regulations,” National Association of Scholars, November 4, 2019.

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