Hillary Clinton celebrated the finalization of her new higher education plan on Wednesday with the help of her former rival, Bernie Sanders. While this was only the second joint appearance on the campaign trail for the two, their newfound camaraderie was apparent when discussing the details of the proposal. The recently christened New College Compact is clearly an amalgamation between the programs that were presented by Sanders and Clinton during the primary race. The proposal — which would make public universities tuition-free for most Americans and would allow students to refinance their debt — seems as if it were tailor-made to try and sway the millennial voters still dejected over Sanders’ loss.
With total student debt topping $1.2 trillion in the United States, nearly all college students and their families have a vested interest in any proposed reform. And Clinton, in announcing her vision of the future of higher education, is clearly attempting to convince this coveted demographic to vote for her. However, forcing states to make their public universities tuition-free for families making less than $125,000 per year is downright nonsensical, particularly when many Republican-controlled state legislatures continue to slash their public education budgets. While putting forth a comprehensive plan is better than remaining silent on the issue, this key feature of Clinton’s vision must and will remain just that — a vision.
The New College Compact would incentivize students to apply to and attend public universities over any other option, as the allure of free or reduced tuition is undeniable — especially in comparison to the prices students pay to attend expensive institutions like NYU. This would likely result in a balloon of applications for these universities, drastically lowering admissions rates. Despite the negative effects such a program would have on those in the public university sphere, enacting it would have more severe ramifications for students who attend private colleges. A recent study conducted by Georgetown University projects that under this plan private college enrollment could fall by upwards of 15 percent. This could easily result in the nationwide degradation of the elite status of private universities.
Nonetheless, the New College Compact does include valuable reforms, most of which stem from the plan the Clinton camp initially put forth during the primary race. These proposals would allow graduates to refinance their student debt, would increase federal funding for existing college scholarship programs and would expand child care resources for student-parents. Voters need to understand that pragmatic proposals like these are much more likely to be enacted, and therefore are what should be focused on, instead of empty promises. By allying with Sanders, Clinton has chosen to submit to the unrealistic demands of his supporters, tainting her initial and sensible vision for higher education reform in a seemingly futile attempt to sway voters.
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