Being Right: ‘Free’ Education Costs

One of the most discussed issues on the campaign trail this election season has been the elimination of college tuition. The cost of college is a major problem in the U.S., with over $1.3 trillion owed in student loans and college tuition prices skyrocketing. Now, there are many proposals on how to tackle this issue, with the leading proposal being Hillary Clinton’s plan. Under her plan, students from households with incomes less than $125,000 will pay no tuition or fees to attend public universities. As appealing as this sounds to many, the plan is heavily flawed and unrealistic. 

Cost remains one of the major issues with this plan. It is estimated to cost around $350 billion and would be paid for by the federal and state governments. The Clinton campaign has been sparse on the details of where the money will come from, other than saying it will come from taxing high net worth individuals. While details on the payment are unclear, the most problematic aspect of the plan is its implementation, due to its reliance on assumptions. It is assumed that students will work ten hours a week and that states will increase their investment in education. However, states could easily opt out, similar to how many states did with Medicaid under Obamacare.

The plan also fails to factor in the stark variation of tuition prices from school to school. This variance is also seen in how much states invest in education. A federal subsidy like what Hillary proposes will unfairly reward the states that have failed to invest in their own education. Another key aspect the plan fails to address is how the government will stop colleges from raising tuition, since they know the government will pay for it. The broader implications of such actions could prove detrimental to the United States educational system.

In addition to the many assumptions, the plan has the potential to cause many unintended consequences. One of these consequences concerns the many private colleges in the U.S. Many private colleges will be unable to compete with the free public colleges, which potentially could cause them to to shut their doors. Some of our contries leading institutions, who cultivate the brightest young minds, could cease to exist. In addition to the pain it would cause private colleges, the plan may also hurt those it is intending to help. The lower class will be competing with a wave of upper-middle class students, also within the income bracket covered by the plan, applying to the same free public colleges. This will increase the competition for admission, hurting the chances of those students that need the plan the most. 

As a whole, Clinton’s plan fails to address the many issues it would cause. This plan is merely an empty campaign promise that has little chance of ever coming to fruition. It is not a well thought out or meticulously crafted policy proposal. Rather, it is an attempt to win over many hesitant Bernie Sanders supporters, as this plan was strategically added during the platform discussion of the Democratic National Convention to secure

Clinton’s nomination.

This gridlock is quite clearly illustrated by President Obama’s free community college proposal, which has stagnated in Congress. Why would things change for a candidate with a 55 percent unfavorable rating and a likely Republican-controlled Congress which has despised her for over two decades? Clinton knows that it would be overturned and this is the reason why it has been neglected since the beginning of her nomination. College tuition is a major issue that needs to be addressed, but a blanket tax and federal spending is not the right approach.