Hillary Clinton announced on Monday her “new college compact” which will enable more Americans to pay for college without becoming bogged down by debt that can prevent them from starting a business or even buying a home. This $350 billion dollar plan includes giving grants to states to make them partners in a pledge that no student should have to take out a loan to pay for tuition if attending a four-year public college in their state.
It would require students to help pay their way through school by contributing based on what they earn from 10 hours of work per week. And, echoing a plan already proposed by President Obama, students would be able to attend community college for free. Clinton discussed the plan, a litmus test of sorts for progressives, at a campaign stop Monday in New Hampshire. The plan, which would change the way a large swath of Americans pay for college, borrows ideas from the left and the right and even expands a program enacted by her husband. It includes ideas already being discussed in Congress and for which groundwork has been laid by the Obama administration.
Clinton will continue offering additional proposals intended to help nontraditional students in Iowa later in the week. Clinton will offer additional proposals intended to help nontraditional students — such as those who are already parents — complete their degrees, the campaign said. And the plan’s rollout is timed to coincide with college students heading back to school, potentially luring a voting bloc critical for President Barack Obama that Clinton needs to court as well.
Clinton’s plan would slash the rates on student loans to a level where the government doesn’t make money from them, a move she claims would lead to savings of tens of billions of dollars over the next decade for student borrowers, put in place a fund to assist private colleges that target students of color or a large number of lower-income students, and bolster the G.I. bill that came into place after the Sept. 11 terror attacks to help veterans secure an education.
The billion dollar price tag covers a 10-year period and nearly $175 billion would cover the grants to states and schools. The remaining monies would fuel educational innovations, such as offering more aid to parents who want to go back to school. Clinton’s key opponent Jeb Bush criticized the plan saying, “this irresponsible proposal would raise taxes, increase government debt and double down on the failed Obama economic policies that have led to a new normal of sluggish economic growth, rising college costs spurred by Washington and limited opportunities for all Americans — including recent college graduates.”
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander argued that college tuition has become largely affordable now and that stories of students who have racked up more than $100,000 of debt are outliers. “Members of the Senate education committee are working on a plan to help students graduate more quickly with less debt,” a Republican aide said. “Students, taxpayers and voters should react with great skepticism to any proposals that would amount to a Washington takeover of higher education and jeopardize the autonomy and independence that has made our higher education system the best in the world. These kinds of ideas usually go hand in hand with higher state taxes, increased costs and fewer choices.”
The campaign praised some Obama administration initiatives, including the boosts in Pell Grant spending and the expansion of programs that allow graduates to repay loans based on the size of their paycheck. But Clinton wants to address the underlying issue that led to the need for those changes and the nation’s collective $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. Clinton’s plan targets nontraditional college students, too, her campaign said, in part to cater to the modern worker, who may need additional skills to advance or change careers even if they already have a degree. Clinton’s plan would allow the Education Department to pursue more experiments that allow students taking some types of online courses to draw federal financial aid.