University of Wisconsin College Democrats and College Republicans debated about education, abortion and other state and national issues Monday night — just a little over one week before midterm elections.
Hosted by WUD Society and Politics, this event marked the first debate between UW College Democrats and Republicans.
UW College Democrat David Pelikan opened the debate and said this election will be crucial in defining who voters are as Wisconsinites, Americans and human beings overall. He stressed the importance of providing equal opportunity, ending discrimination, eradicating poverty and stopping the inequality of influence.
UW political science professor and moderator David Canon asked the students how college can become more affordable while maintaining quality.
UW College democrat Claudia Koechell said funding the university system is essential — especially after Gov. Scott Walker cut $250 million. She added it also resulted in UW dropping out of the top five research institutions.
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Koechell said the government also needs to provide financial aid to students in need and provide students with the ability to refinance student loans.
UW College Republican Alesha Guenther also raised concerns about student loan debt. She said the combined $1.4 trillion in student loan debt of students entering the workforce needs to be addressed.
Tuition for public universities has increased by 344 percent and that college students cannot keep up with costs, Guenther said.
“To keep these costs low, instead of turning to the federal government to streamline the solutions we need to look to the root of the problem and solve it from its base,” Guenther said.
If the federal government removes itself from the personal choices of students when it comes to education, students will have more economic freedom, Guenther said.
But Koechell said cutting governmental aid would still be detrimental for low-income students, who likely couldn’t afford the “upfront cost” of university.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re going to cut the loans because in ten years tuition might stay the same rate, it matters that people like me — low-income students — wouldn’t be able to attend university,” Koechell said. “It’s not something that should be a privilege if you come from a wealthy family. It should be available for everyone.”
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While Guenther and Koechell agreed that Walker’s tuition freeze keeps college affordable, Koechell said universities also need an increase in funding to maintain the quality of education.
But Guenther said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers did not support the tuition freeze in 2013.
“Supporting the tuition freeze during an election year versus actually supporting it when students needed it the most is not what I would call honest,” Guenther said.
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On abortion, Guenther urged the audience to avoid making generalizations about pro-lifers. While she is pro-life she is also a feminist and does not think the two are mutually exclusive.
Guenther also criticized Planned Parenthood for using federal funds to advertise abortions.
On the other hand, Koechell said only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood funding actually goes to abortion and that none of those funds are federal taxpayer dollars.
Guenther and Koechell both agreed that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision sets a precedent. But Koechell said cutting funds to Planned Parenthood infringes on a woman’s right to access abortions.
Despite the decrease in patients cared for by Planned Parenthood, Guenther said they still received an increase of $207 million in funding.
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When asked about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and its implications on Roe v. Wade, Guenther said she believes Kavanaugh will honor precedent.
Koechell added that precedent must be honored — because of that, it would be impermissible to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“[Roe v. Wade] decision was a huge step for women’s rights and there’s no point in going backward in progress,” Koechell said.
Regardless of political views, both UW Democrats and Republicans urged audience members to go out and vote in the midterm elections coming up Nov. 6.