LITTLE FALLS – Jonathan Koppell, the president of Montclair State University, introduced Mikie Sherrill at her “town hall” Wednesday night and then left the podium.
It’s a shame he didn’t stick around. The first question was about college affordability and of more relevance, the cancellation of up to $10,000 in student loan debt, which Joe Biden announced earlier that very day.
The president’s move was very much a compromise, which is why it’s been criticized from both sides.
Some Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough.
Republicans say it’s a reckless giveaway to college graduates at the expense of those who chose not to attend.
“I struggle with this myself,” Sherrill acknowledged.
Referring to the debt cancellation, she said “It’s just not a long term solution.”
Few would argue with that. There are various studies and cost analyses of college – both private and public – tuition over the years, but the bottom line is the same: Costs continue to soar. One estimate by the National Center for Education Statistics calculated a 180 percent increase in tuition over a recent 20-year period.
Cancelling debt does not delve into why costs are so high, which was Sherrill’s point.
But can Congress really do something about that?
Later in the session, a questioner brought up the massive endowments many universities have. Why can’t Congress force them to lower tuition and other fees by dipping into those endowments?
There may be constitutional questions with that – especially with private universities. Sherrill said another possibility was taxing such endowments. That, in theory, could encourage universities to use them.
The “town hall” on the university campus was the first in-person session Sherrill has had since the pandemic. Sherrill and many others have held virtual meetings, but they simply are not the same.
About 125 or so people attended. It was mostly a supportive crowd, except for a guy who yelled out at the end, “Stop spending our money.” He was not specific. A pity.
The congresswoman fielded a number of questions about such local issues as developing trail systems through Essex County and also around the Boonton, or if you prefer, Jersey City, Reservoir in Morris County. A woman from Hopatcong, which will leave CD-11 next year, lamented that she will no longer have Sherrill as her representative. She said she was also worried about water quality in Lake Hopatcong.
Sherrill said her office would work with the House member who winds up representing Sussex County next year. And in a cryptic reference to this year’s election, Sherrill said she will still be there to help, “Knock wood, I’m not going anywhere.”
As for November, GOP candidate Paul DeGroot, like all New Jersey Republicans, is criticizing House Democrats for not restoring the full deduction for state and local taxes or SALT.
Sherrill said she’s not giving up. She said she spoke about the now-$10,000 SALT cap with Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
The congresswoman said she hopes eliminating the cap can be done at the end of the year.
“That’s the next plan,” she said.