College affordability is shaping up to be a major campaign issue, and it's not hard to see why. Approximately 40 million Americans are saddled with a collective $1.2 trillion in student loan debt.
Democrats in the race are pushing for debt-free public higher education. "How much sense does it make that you can refinance your home or buy a car at a lower interest rate than you can borrow money from your own government to send your kid to college?" Martin O'Malley said.
But Republicans have dismissed the idea as irresponsible.
"This is about making doing business in America more expensive, raising taxes, and then pouring all that money into an outdated higher education system," Marco Rubio said on Fox News. As for their own plans, they differ quite a bit, but a common theme is creating flexibility.
So, in the case of Marco Rubio, that means letting private investors pay students' tuition in exchange for a share of their future earnings.
Others — including Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham — support allowing students to refinance their loans.
Another hot topic this election cycle: the Common Core.
Those are the English and math standards introduced in 2010 and originally adopted by 46 states. Democrats Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton have embraced the White House-backed education guidelines.
Whereas Republicans tend to see them as yet another example of government overreach. "We should repeal every single word of Common Core," Ted Cruz said on Fox News.
Of the GOP field, only Jeb Bush and John Kasich support keeping them.
See photos related to education:
(MAIN) 2016 issues: Education politics, student loans, common core
US presidential race issues: Education
A man carries a sign outside the Capitol during a march by public education supporters on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
In this Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 photo, teacher Joy Burke checks on the work of her fifth grade students at John Hay Elementary school in Seattle. Burke is an "RCS" (Reduction in Class Size) teacher at the school, a new position there which allows her to give additional attention to students in math and reading skills. Education advocates in Washington state are pushing a measure limiting class sizes, but opponents worry the initiative on the November ballot could make a bad budget situation worse. Lawmakers are already scrambling to find cash to put more money into a series of education reforms under the Washington Supreme Courtâs McCleary decision. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo, Common Core opponents wave signs and cheer at a rally opposing Mississippi's continued use of the Common Core academic standards on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis,File)
FILE - In this July 21, 2014 file photo, students at a summer reading academy at Buchanan elementary school work in the computer lab at the school in Oklahoma City. Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki,File)
Materials are piled onto a cart inside an adult education classroom at the Maryvale Community Education Building in Cheektowaga, N.Y., where students were preparing for the TASC test on March 23, 2015. The GED was overhauled last year to reflect the Common Core standards that have been adopted by most states and emphasize critical thinking. Two new high school equivalency exams that also incorporate some of those standards were also introduced last year. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
Nevada Assemblyman Brent Jones, R-Las Vegas, presents a measure in committee that would repeal Common Core K-12 education standards during a hearing at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
FILE - In this March 19, 2015 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush visits the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. In the Republican roar over Common Core, various myths are being peddled as fact. Even so, the 2016 GOP presidential prospects who are criticizing Common Core have a point _ if an overstated one _ when they dispute the notion that it is strictly a voluntary initiative that bubbled up from communities and states. In complicated but unmistakable ways, the federal government does put pressure on states to live up to the standards. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
A personal note shares space with a family portrait and a "Stop Common Core" sticker on the name plate of House Judiciary B Committee chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, on his document-laden desk in House chambers at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 12, 2015. Although some committee chairmen have separate offices in the Capitol, most spend the majority of their time on the floor of their respective chambers and try to personalize their work stations. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
People protesting the Common Core education standards demonstrate near the hotel where the meeting of Tennessee's Education Summit is taking place on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thursday's event titled "Progress of the Past, Present and Future" will involve elected officials and representatives from 24 organizations focusing on K-12 and higher education. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence embraces a preschool student at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. Pence's office says he signed a bill said Monday, March 24, 2014 pulling Indiana from reading and math standards that were adopted by most states around the country. (AP Photo/Tom LoBianco, File)
Karima Hawkins of Jackson, foreground, holds a sign against Common Core, the State Standards Initiative that established a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Opponents of Common Core hope to convince legislators into ending the initiative. Lawmakers return to the Capitol for a three-month session this year. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: From left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, participate in the press conference in the Capitol to call for the elimination of student loan debt at public higher education institutions on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: From left, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, participate in the press conference in the Capitol to call for the elimination of student loan debt at public higher education institutions on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
EXETER, NH - AUGUST 10: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a town hall meeting at Exeter High School August 10, 2015 in Exeter, New Hampshire. Clinton discussed college affordability and student debt relief. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 19: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attends a news conference with members of the National Nurses Association at the Senate swamp on legislation 'to eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities and to expand work-study programs,' May 19, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US President Barack Obama applauds a speaker after his introduction before signing a memorandum on reducing the burden of student loans on June 9, 2014 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama meets with Tony Aguilar, Austin, Texas, right, of Student Loan Genius as he hosted top innovators and startup founders from across the country for the first White House Demo Day, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, in the White House in Washington. Student Loan Genius allows companies to offer a benefit that optimizes employeesâ student debt and provide a matching contribution to help them become debt-free faster.Â (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Students wait outside Everest College, Tuesday, April, 28, 2015 in Industry, Calif., hoping to get their transcriptions and information on loan forgiveness and transferring credits to other schools. Corinthian Colleges shut down all of its remaining 28 ground campuses on Monday, April 27, displacing 16,000 students. The shutdown comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announcing it was fining the for-profit institution $30 million for misrepresentation. (AP Photo/Christine Armario)
Details on Wall Street reform and student loans are seen in President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan that was sent to Congress today, on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chart shows total student loan debt since 2005; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
A close-up of President Barack Obama signing the bipartisan bill to cut student loan interest rates, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The bill has been awaiting Obama's signature since earlier this month, when the House gave it final congressional approval after a drawn-out process to reach a compromise in the Senate. The bill links student loan interest rates to the financial markets. It would offer lower rates for most students now, but higher ones down the line if the economy improves as expected. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Illinois Senator Bill Cunningham receives testimony about reforming community college executive pay and other issues in the wake of questionable spending and severance practices at The College of DuPage Monday, July 20, 2015, in Chicago. The school has faced criticism over a $763,000 severance package to end president Robert Breuder's contract early. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)
Darius Gordon of Citizen Action of New York City leads a chant during a rally for public education on the Senate Staircase at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)