Andrew Yang talks education with students at the IMU

At a town hall in the IMU, entrepreneur Andrew Yang spoke to a student-heavy room about issues facing their generation and how he plans to fix education systems in the U.S.


Lily Smith for The Daily Iowan

Democratic presidential nomination candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a town hall event in the IMU Second Floor Ballroom on Wednesday. Yang’s support has grown consistently in Iowa since he announced candidacy, due in part to large internet following.

Brooklyn Draisey, Managing Editor

Seventeen-year-old Ben Hause traveled an hour with friends during the school day to see Andrew Yang who, he said, is one of the only presidential hopefuls in the race that actually wants to move the country forward.

“[Yang] just seems like he’s not the normal politician that’s stuck in old ways, he’s actually looking forward to progressing our country instead of sticking to ways that haven’t really worked in a long time,” he said.

Yang stopped at the University of Iowa for a town hall just five days before the caucuses, drawing around 300 people. The entrepreneur fired jokes left and right while explaining his policies and past, asking the audience to finish phrases and guess statistics about the state of the U.S.

Hause, a high-school senior from Sigourney, Iowa, took a quiz in his government class to find out which presidential-nomination candidate best aligned with his views, and he got Yang. Since Hause will be able to caucus this year, he decided to learn more about Yang, and said the entrepreneur didn’t disappoint. Hause said he plans to caucus for Yang Feb. 3.

One policy area Hause said he is particularly interested in is higher education, as he plans to attend college in the fall. Around half of the room raised their hands when Yang asked about students in the crowd.

The deck has been stacked against the current college students’ generation in a way it hasn’t in the past, Yang said.

“It’s not just that the cost of college has gone up 250 percent over the last number of years, and that you are going to be saddled with debt loads that are higher than previous generations,” Yang said. “… It’s the fact that the government now is no longer responding to you and your needs.”

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According to PolitiFact, the average cost of college has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and student-loan debt is the highest it’s ever been. Forbes reported on a New York Fed dataset that revealed 44 percent of college graduates ages 22-27 are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.

Yang also touched on K-12 education in response to a question from an audience member about gun violence in schools. As Yang’s two sons ran around on stage, Yang spoke about passing common-sense gun laws and pushing back against the National Rifle Association.

Damien, his 4-year-old son, is participating in active-shooter drills at school, which Yang said prompted him to look into the effects drills have on students.

NBC reported that very little research has gone into whether drills actually save lives, but young students are deeply affected by them.

Yang said active-shooter drills should be made optional for students. But, he said, there are deeper issues at work that can make students feel unsafe. Schools are unequipped to deal with students who are different neurologically, he said, which can lead to those students feeling neglected. This can sometimes result in violence.

“We have to invest in homes and families directly in the form of this [Freedom Dividend], we have to make our schools more individualized in the way they support our kids and not treat it as an assembly line,” Yang said.

One way to end the assembly line, Yang said, is to require less standardized testing.

Isabelle Puckett, a fifth grader from Bettendorf, Iowa, came to the town hall with a letter for Yang and a folder filled with his printed policies that she agreed with. In the letter, which Yang read aloud, Puckett said she wished she was 18 years old so she could vote for him.

In the folder were his policies on legal protections for members of the LGBTQ community, increasing assistance for single parents and veterans, and equal pay across gender and race.

“I really like his ads,” Puckett said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “I gave him a letter so maybe he could write back and … know that he should be president.”