Education has certainly been a focal point in Hillary's Clinton campaign thus far. After emphasizing the need to give middle and working class families access to pre-kindergarten education, Clinton unveiled her higher education and student debt plan Monday, moved to the other end of the education spectrum. The plan, called the New College Compact, would spend $350 billion throughout 10 years to decrease interest rates on college loans and make paying for higher education easier. The compact would get its funding by cutting tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Clinton also wants to help students in nontraditional circumstances, such as those who are parents.
Clinton spoke on Monday afternoon at a high school in New Hampshire and will continue the subject at a town hall meeting at River Valley Community College on Tuesday. The main goals of the New College Compact are to allow students to attend community college for free, study at four-year universities without taking out loans, push for universities to cut costs and boost graduation rates, and pressure states to spend more on college education.
Her website says, "Every family should be able to afford college without racking up crushing debt. Education is supposed to lift young people up, not drag them down. We will — finally and forever — make college affordable and available."
Under Clinton's plan, the federal government would give about $175 billion in grants to states that can guarantee students wouldn't have to take out loans to pay for tuition at four-year public universities. In return, those states would increase funding for higher education. "These grants will ensure tuition without borrowing and further debt reduction at 4-year public colleges, support private non-profit colleges that keep costs low and provide value, and relieve debt for students who commit to national service," the plan says. Clinton unveiled the proposal just as students were beginning to return to classes for the fall, a likely calculated move to secure the votes of more young Americans and their parents.
According to Politico, the nation holds $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. In-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions in 2014 ranged from $4,646 a year in Wyoming to $14,712 a year in New Hampshire, according to a College Board Trends In College Pricing report. In-district tuition and fees at public two-year colleges ranged from $1,429 a year in California to $7,320 a year in Vermont.
The Clinton campaign also released a video Monday that highlighted the issue of struggling students. In it, Clinton said, "Higher education should be a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it."
The Democratic candidate's plan drew the ire of Republicans, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who quickly engaged Clinton in a Twitter war. Student debt is one of the few bipartisan issues that both parties agree on, but how to make college more affordable is still disputed by both sides. Let the education games begin.