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Health care, education big topics of third Democratic debate

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke meeting with ABC News following the debate. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar Democratic Debate

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke met with ABC News following the Democratic  debate. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Round three of the Democratic primary debates took place Thursday night steps away from UH at Texas Southern University, where candidates spoke about their plans to help college students, including investing in historically black colleges and universities.

It was the first time the primary debates took place on one night. Ten candidates stood on one stage in the three-hour debate that aired on ABC. 

Several candidates spoke on how they plan to help HBCUs, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Harris said she has a plan to invest $2 trillion into HBCUs. 

“If a black child has a black teacher before the end of third grade, they’re 13 percent more likely to go to college,” Harris said, who went to Howard University, a historically black school. “When we fix it, that will fix so many other things. We must invest in the potential of our children.”

TSU political science professor Michael Adams said on Tuesday historically black colleges and universities often receive less funding than predominantly white institutions, especially in regard to research grants. 

“This is important for our faculty and students,” Adams said about candidates investing in HBCUs. 

Other candidates weighed in on how they would invest in HBCUs. Sanders signaled to his proposal of tuition-free college and elimination of student debt, while Buttigieg signaled support for additional investment also. 

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke said he would sign Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s reparations bill into law when asked what he would do to address the U.S.’s racial divide.

Lee’s bill aims to make a commission that would “study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans and look at possible compensation.” 

similar bill was proposed in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Cory Booker, but no other candidates mentioned it Thursday night. 

The first issue spoken about at length and showing the biggest divides in the Democratic Party was health care. The health care discussion played out similar to the second Democratic debate in Detroit with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders defending their Medicare for All positions against moderate attacks, including from front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Biden framed his health care plan as more affordable, costing only $740 million compared to Medicare for All’s estimated more than $3 trillion cost. He said his plan would allow every American to have an affordable option to access health care coverage.

“I lay out how I can pay for it, how I can get it done,” Biden said. 

Warren was pressed about how she would pay for her health care plan, which the candidates spent almost 30 minutes discussing. The former UH law professor said costs would go up for corporations and wealthy individuals but ensured that middle-class families wouldn’t face higher costs at the end of the day. 

That’s how it should work under Medicare for All in our health care system,” Warren said. 

TSU students had hundreds of seats in the Health and Physical Education Building that held 3,500 people. 

Adams said he would take a focus group pre- and post-debate poll, gauging how TSU students felt about the debate. 

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