Republican nominee Donald Trump issued some of his strongest statements yet on education Wednesday, denouncing American colleges as scams luring students into borrowing thousands of dollars for degrees that won’t get them jobs.
“I’m going to Toledo and I’m going to different places today and I’ve met so many people,” Trump said during a press conference in Gaston, Fla. “And the saddest thing I see is these students are leveraged debt up to their — up to their neck. They can’t breathe, they’re scared, they’re so scared they have leveraged their entire life. They have loans.”
Trump placed the blame for students carrying excess loans squarely on the shoulders of American colleges, which he said were inflating costs in order to boost salaries and soak up as much federal money as possible.
“I have to tell you, the colleges are viewing the students as just a con to it,” he said. “Because the students get government money, passes through but the number gets higher and higher.”
“College costs are out of control, because the colleges say ‘What difference does it make?'” Trump continued. “If you take a look at the salaries being paid, you take a look at what’s going on with the colleges.”
Trump said his campaign was working on a more detailed higher education plan and would be releasing information on it within the next four weeks. He said this plan would help students struggling with student loans, even if “that doesn’t fit beautifully within the Republican framework.”
Trump’s sharp criticism of colleges suggests he may propose putting colleges on the hook when their students are unable to repay loans. The Trump campaign has previously hinted he may pursue such a policy, while also trying to disentangle government from the student loan business in general.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has pushed a college plan that would make public colleges entirely free for families earning less than $125,000. Trump didn’t comment on that plan Wednesday, but his campaign has previously indicated it opposes such an approach.
Trump’s suggestion that higher education is a scam naturally invites comparisons to his own Trump University. The company, which was never an accredited school, is battling a class-action lawsuit claiming it lured people into spending thousands on useless real estate seminars.
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