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Student loan debt is a huge national problem, but it’s also a local one for students enrolled at KCC and Oregon Tech. The only candidate for Congress in our district with a plan to deal with it is Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

Once, it might have been possible to pay for college with a summer job. But things have changed: college costs 12-times what it did a generation ago.

To pay your tuition with a summer job now, you’d have to work 21 hours a day for three months each summer to graduate without debt. Instead, many students work full-time while attending classes.

I’ve taught college courses for 14 years, and every term I have students who struggle to stay awake during the morning classes that they work the night shift to pay for. And even then, it often isn’t enough.

Consider the students at Oregon Tech, who graduate with an average debt of $24,700: enough money to buy a new car or put a down payment on a house, were it not tied up in loans.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner supports providing tuition-free college in exchange for public service. This isn’t a “handout”: recipients would be required to work in areas like law enforcement, public health, or education, but those who did would be able to devote their full attention to their studies during the school year, and upon graduation would immediately be able to contribute to our economy while experiencing a significantly higher quality of life, free of loan debt.

McLeod-Skinner’s opponent, Greg Walden, voted in 2013 to increase the amount of interest that could be charged on student loans.

If you value our college students’ ability to pay for and receive a meaningful education that will help them go on to be successful, productive members of our community, the choice is clear: vote for Jamie McLeod-Skinner in November.

Ben Bunting

Klamath Falls

Gerry OBrien, Editor