Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, in Atlanta this week for the Democratic primary debate, pitched his new affordable college plan to black college students.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor fielded questions at Morehouse College ahead of the debate where students said they came to hear what he has to offer them and black voters across the country.
In the crowd of a couple hundred people, Morehouse freshman Trey Causey waited to hear how Buttigieg could help young minorities gain ground through affordable college.
“A lot of brothers and sisters are being forced out of college because they just can’t afford it,” Causey said. “And now college is the only way to be socially mobile for the vast majority of people. Being able to afford college, I’m really interested to hear his plan. That is a key part of why I am here.”
Causey said now more than ever, young people need to become involved in the electoral process. With so much going on in America, he said, being informed is “crucial.”
From New Orleans, Causey said many of the historically black colleges and universities students come from varied black communities throughout the nation and winning them over might not necessarily mean a candidate will win, but “it’s a step in the right direction.”
Melina Watson took the short five-minute walk to Morehouse from Spellman College to hear Buttigieg speak. She said college students who didn’t take the opportunity to see a presidential candidate — and specifically address college affordability — in their own back yard made a mistake.
“Higher education is something that’s a pressing issue for so many Americans, and kind of a source of a lot of turmoil and trouble in the country,” Watson, a freshman, said. “So it’s important for candidates to have an answer for the people who are asking questions because college isn’t affordable for most people. Especially us here at HBCUs, black people, black students going to college is as much of a monument in itself. But affording it is one thing and getting there is another.”
College affordability, Watson said, can “challenge the generational wealth inequality that black people face.”
Julian Hemmings, president of the New Deal Democrats at Morehouse, said when he mentions Buttigieg to his peers many don’t know who he is. But when he explains to them there’s a candidate who identities as a veteran, a gay man and a Rhodes scholar, they want to hear more.
“I think if he can emphasize who he is and where he comes from, he’ll have a chance,” Hemmings told reporters.
The 37-year-old mayor’s higher education plan would eliminate tuition for nearly 7 million students eligible for federal Pell Grants and dedicate $50 billion in funding to historically black colleges and other institutions serving minorities.
“It is important that the presidential race finds itself in Atlanta and I think it’s fitting that the path to the White House right now goes through Morehouse,” he said.
Buttigieg answered questions about reparations for slavery, voter suppression, canceling student debt and impeachment. Buttigieg told the crowd without voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be Georgia’s governor.
When asked his priorities for rural Georgia, Buttigieg pointed to his plan for rural economic development: making sure there is access to health care, access to the internet and access to economic growth. He also mentioned rural communities that have grown are often those embracing immigration. Buttigieg wants to increase foreign visas in rural communities.