"How many of ya'll have student loans? And, basically, are you concerned about paying the loans back?"
Those were some of the question Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., asked West Virginia State University students during a roundtable discussion at 2:30 Dec. 5 on the school's Institute campus.
The event, which took place at the Erickson Alumni Center, focused on the issues surrounding higher education and was hosted by West Virginia State University students and faculty.
Manchin also asked the students if they thought the cost of education was too high and the different ways to possibly lower the cost.
While Manchin admitted cost was high, he also suggested students view it as an investment.
"It's the cheapest investment you'll make," he said. "It's the gift that keeps giving."
When making the investment, which often involves taking out student loans, Manchin said having financial counsel in order to not take out more than one might need, is important in keeping student debt low.
Concern regarding job opportunities once education is complete, income disparity and raising minimum wage are all issues that cause students concern.
While Manchin warned students to be realistic about careers and life post-college graduate, saying it is usually the case of starting on the bottom and working one's way up. He also issued advice on how to get ahead by being the author of one's own success.
According to Manchin, what one needs is a good product, to know the product inside and out and have good value and service via the product.
While looking at not only higher education but education as a whole, Manchin said engaging and challenging students at the high school level not only ensures progression to college or some other form of higher education, but also prevents educational stagnation.
Also discussed at the roundtable discussion were issues of immigration, tax reform both individually and corporately and the current discourse in Washington.
In response to student-expressed concern regarding the United States' commercial dependence on China, Manchin said "he wouldn't worry about China too much" and that "they can't live with us and they can't live without us."
What is the nation's biggest problem that affects not only students, but everyone who calls the United States home?
The financial problem, Manchin said.
Crucial in the economic recovery that effects every societal aspect is figuring out the debt and why money is being spent so it can be used wisely and not wasted, he said.
Since students are the future, Manchin said, it is up to the next generation to fight for the changes they deem important to them.