An easily dis-

countable issue during this election season is the exponential rise in college tuition costs.

But this issue needs to be considered by 2016 voters in a far more critical light than it's usually been. I earned my bachelor of science degree from Kent State University in 1974. Tuition for full-time undergrads was $775 per year, and I had no student debt upon completion of my degree. A staggering amount of loan debt now exists for 66 percent to 80 percent of college and university grads. Nationally there are 43.3 million Americans in 2016 carrying nearly $1.3 trillion in student debt, $37,000 on average per student and much more at private/for profit colleges and universities.

This situation appears even more daunting when students must drop out or when graduates cannot find good-paying jobs in their chosen field. While some nationally elected officials are calling for reasonable solutions to resolve the growing student loan epidemic, they've usually been met with undue resistance or inaction primarily from Congressional Republicans.

In Columbus, the Ohio State Assembly has repeatedly slashed student aid and funds for public universities and colleges over 30 years. Ohio's budget entrenchment against higher education is now heading toward "zero" support from the state by 2039. Despite imposing caps or mandatory tuition reductions for state colleges and universities, Ohio legislators fail to provide sufficient funding for them in meeting these mandates. The inevitable results may compromise academic standards or cut enrollment and necessary services despite legislative requirements not to compromise value for students.

We're in an era when grasping the American Dream often includes, or requires, a college education. But, particularly in Ohio, that foundational element of our children's future success will continue evaporating unless voters seek to elect officials at both the state and federal level who are solidly committed to restoring American public higher education.

Christine Hicks, Cuyahoga Falls