Sen. Sherrod Brown urges students to take trade jobs after pushing loan forgiveness: 'You don't need a degree'

Brown's remarks come after he expressed support for eliminating the debt of college graduates

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat seeking re-election in a state that has trended red in recent elections, urged young residents in the Buckeye State to take up trade jobs and insisted they "don't need a college degree" after previously signaling support for loan debt forgiveness.

"I make a plea to every young Ohioan I meet — consider a career in the building trades. Apprenticeship programs, good pay & benefits, and you don’t need a college degree," Brown wrote in a Saturday tweet, which was accompanied by a video message from the senator.

Brown's pitch to those who are thinking about their future careers included the promotion of an apprenticeship program where individuals end up having no debt in four to five years, compared to those who may earn degrees and have college loans.

"The infrastructure bill means tens of thousands of jobs for the building trades, and that's insulators and laborers and plumbers and pipe fitters and carpenters," Brown said in the video. "One of the great things about the trades, whether you're right out of high school or your in your twenties or early thirties, you go to an apprentice program, the first year of training you make $18 or $20 with benefits contributing already to your retirement. By the fourth or fifth year of training, you're $60,000 or $70,000, and you have no debt, because you're not going to school with tuition."


Sherrod Brown

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat seeking re-election in a state that has trended red in recent elections, urged young residents in the Buckeye State to take up trade jobs and insisted they "don't need a college degree." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / AP Newsroom)

"So I make an appeal to encourage more and more people to go into the trades," Brown added. "We're gonna see more women. We're going to see more people of color in the trades."

Brown concluded his message by referring to trade work as an "absolute ticket" and an "absolute path to the middle class."

"Good health benefits, good retirement benefits, good wages, and Ohio can lead the nation in that," he concluded.

Brown is known as an advocate for working professions, but his message on trade work offers a contrasting view of a sentiment he shared last February, when he expressed support for "eliminating some student debt" for individuals who attended colleges rather than take up trade jobs.

Brown's comments at the time came during an interview with KentWired, an independent news website operated by student journalists from Kent State University.

"Well, I just spoke to a journalism class here, and you can’t come to a campus and not hear about student debt. You also can’t, as you ask people about it, you can’t help but understand how it will affect their lives in the next five, 10, 15 years; in terms of maybe getting married, maybe putting off a date for marriage, maybe job choice, that you take the higher-paying job, even though you know it’s not really the one you want, because you’ve got student debt," Brown said of his support for Biden's plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower.


Construction workers in Miami

Construction workers on a job site on March 10, 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Citing a study that showed a drop in middle-class high school graduates attending college, Brown was asked by the outlet about his solution to the effect student loan debt forgiveness would have on the middle class.

"They feel left behind, because they have been left behind. They’ve had a government that cares about the rich, that’s what most of the last four years was all about. The Trump administration cut investment in public education, cut funding on student loans and had no interest in forgiving debts. We have to approach all of that," Brown said. "High schoolers don’t have interest in going to college, because they know what happened to their older brothers and sisters, who got caught up in this and face all this debt, and they think it’s not worth taking that risk."

"You address that by eliminating some student debt," Brown continued. "You address that by encouraging state governments to invest," Brown added. 

"I mean, this Ohio state government is undercut and under-invested in state universities for a generation now. This state government is, you know, it’s corrupt, it’s incompetent. It spends more time with guns and taking away women’s health rights and very little on investing in public education," he said.

College students

Students walk to class at Rice University on August 29, 2022, in Houston, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images / Getty Images)


Brown, who has represented Ohio in the Senate since 2007, announced last November that he would seek a fourth term in the upper chamber in 2024.

Brown has been elected to three terms in the Senate, but recent elections indicate that Ohio voters are moving to the right. Republican Sen. JD Vance won a resounding election victory over then-Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, last November.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, told a crowd in March that he is "actively" considering a run against Brown.

Brown's office did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.