Pulse of the Voters

Talking openly about politics can oftentimes ruffle people's feathers, but that didn't stop Cooke County voters from candidly discussing their views.

The Register asked three people their thoughts on college debt and free college tuition for the latest Pulse of the Voters installment. Here's what they had to say:

James C. Jones, a 39-year-old Gainesville resident, described himself as voting Democrat but said he is "further to the left than the Democrats."

Jones said he teaches history and humanities at North Central Texas College. As a professor, Jones said he had to bear the cost of going "to college and graduate school."

"So I carry about three times more student loan debt than your average student and it's crippling," Jones said. "If it wasn't for my income-based repayment program, I don't know how I would survive."

Jones said he doesn't know how people struggling to find work seem to make it, while adding there has to be something done to ease the burden on those with student debt.

"The public student loan forgiveness program is a good start, but I think it needs to be expanded to include people in other job types who don't make a lot of money but still had to take on a lot of loans,” Jones said. “And free public college and university education is a must. We have to get there eventually."

Jones said while it's not a popular opinion, he thinks taking money from the U.S. military's budget could provide the funds needed to help ease the debt burden.

Nineteen-year-old Tyler Skinner said he thinks there should be requirements met to obtain assistance for college debt.

"It should be for a degree that is ideal. You don't have a lot of art jobs, so why would you go spend $100,000 getting an art degree and then not have an art job?" said Skinner, a registered Republican. "Now you're $100,000 in debt, and you're on the government's assistance plan because you're so broke and they're taking all your money."

The Gainesville resident said the requirements for assistance should be similar to the new food stamp program. 

"You got to have a job, you got to make so much an hour ... I think there should be stuff like that in line with it," said Skinner, who works as a security officer. 

He also thinks a former student should still have to pay part of their incurred debt. 

"Technically, the government isn't the one that got that degree, you did," Skinner said. 

Gainesville resident Larry Smith, 66, is a retired educator. 

Smith said he is an independent voter. “It depends on the candidate and their platforms versus the party,” he said. 

When it comes to alleviating college debt, Smith says he thinks that students and parents need to be educated about ways to achieve an education with programs already offered. 

Smith mentioned high school dual credit opportunities, community college, scholarships and grants as some of the avenues available to students so they aren't faced with the burden of paying off a four-year college tuition debt.

"There are several students, even at Gainesville High School, that are graduating from NCTC [North Central Texas College] before they graduate from high school," Smith said. "That gives a lot of financial relief to the families that are wanting to send their kids to school."

He also said he really doesn't think there is such a thing as free college tuition.

"Someone is going to have to pay for it," Smith said. "I'm against it if it's funded by taxpayers."

 

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