Before holding her post-convention rally in McGonigle Hall last Friday, Secretary Hillary
Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia.
In her acceptance speech, Clinton referenced her tuition plan “to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all,” which I believe has the potential to make college more accessible for many.
In Clinton’s proposed plan, in-state, public universities would be tuition-free for families making up to $85,000 per year. The income cap would rise $10,000 each year until 2021, when families making up to $125,000 would also be covered.
This proposal is part of a revised college tuition plan, which borrowed some points from the plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ during the primary elections. This new plan adds on to an earlier plan released by the Clinton campaign in June. Under both the original and revised Clinton plans, young entrepreneurs would be eligible to have their student loan payments and added interest postponed for up to three years while building their businesses. Additionally, those who start their businesses in more distressed communities would be eligible to have up to $17,500 in loans forgiven.
While Clinton’s initial plan included an option for aspiring entrepreneurs to limit debt, it didn’t do enough to assist the large number of college graduates in debt who may be working in other fields.
A 2014 study done by The Institute for College Access & Success shows just how debt is still a major problem for many college graduates. The study showed 69 percent of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges were still in debt after graduation with an average of $33,264 owed per borrower in Pennsylvania and an average of $28,950 owed per borrower nationwide.
Clinton’s updated plan, however, is a step closer in the direction of overall improvement. The new plan, which takes shape over a period of five years, benefits students most in need first, similarly to how financial aid is determined. The plan also targets low-income families by limiting free tuition to public, state schools, which have lower tuition rates than private schools to begin with and often attract students from families with lower incomes.
Clinton’s new plan would allow for graduates with student debt to have options. One of these options would be a three-month period where borrowers would not have to pay on their student loans and could instead adjust their repayment plans. Other options would include refinancing student loans to lower interest rates, making sure borrowers never repay more than 10 percent of their monthly income and encouraging employers to offer student loan repayment benefits.
This plan has an eye toward saving many graduates a lot of money from reduced interest rates, while also making repayment realistic. Clinton’s plan benefits current students, as well as graduates; however, as with anything, there are also some drawbacks to the plan.
For example, tuition increases often occur so universities can keep up with costs while providing students with the best resources. It is not clear how universities will fund for the expansion of resources, while eliminating tuition for what would equate to roughly 80 percent of college students. The idea of a tuition-free college education sounds great to me, but I also would like to continue having access to the best resources.
Kyle Beattie, a senior accounting and finance major, believes another drawback is that a largely tuition-free society may cause students to not to take their college education as seriously as they do when they know they are paying for it with their hard-earned money.
“I think there has to be a personal cost,” Beattie said. “Like something has to be at stake for students. When you pay your money, it makes you want to do well, and the money isn’t going to waste.”
However, I personally believe students should want to take their education seriously no matter the circumstances. Paying tuition shouldn’t be the determining factor.
But we’ll only be able to see how students view their education and any other ramifications of free tuition, like a potentially more competitive job market, once Clinton’s plan is actually implemented. For now, it’s clear Clinton’s plan is a good start for giving many people who may have been unable to go to college a chance to enroll.
Jensen Toussaint can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.