Hillary Clinton has lurched leftward on college education, releasing a new plan that calls for all families earning less than $125,000 to receive free tuition at public colleges. She credits the shift to the influence of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and it’s almost certainly intended to consolidate support from Sanders backers.
Previously, Clinton’s plan had focused on making public college “debt-free” while still requiring students from middle income families to pay at least some tuition. Now, though, Clinton wants the majority of students to pay nothing at all.
Just a few months ago, when locked in a primary battle with Sanders, Clinton had blasted Sanders’ call for free college as irresponsible.
“When somebody tells you something is free, ask for the fine print,” Clinton said during a rally in April. She said that compelling students and parents to contribute what they were able to would give them “skin in the game” and keep costs under control.
During a debate with Sanders, Clinton also said that it wasn’t right to have “Donald Trump’s kids” attend college for free. (RELATED: Hillary Debt-Forgiveness Plan Blasted As Too Pro-White)
Now, she appears to have split the difference by making college free for most families while leaving Donald Trump’s children out in the cold. Under her proposal, any student coming from a family with a household income below $85,000 would be eligible for free tuition. By 2021, that threshold would be increased to $125,000.
The move is almost certainly intended to win over young people, who decisively supported Sanders over Clinton in the Democratic primary race. A Clinton aide told The Wall Street Journal that she changed her mind after a private meeting with Sanders last month. Sanders, who is still technically running for the nomination and who commands broad progressive support, has yet to endorse Clinton, saying he is holding off to see her policy positions for the general election.
Currently, about 18 percent of households earn above $125,000 a year, according to Census Bureau estimates.
The Clinton campaign doesn’t predict how many families would benefit from her plan, and she also doesn’t put an estimated price tag on it. It would almost certainly cost substantially more than her original plan, which she expected to cost about $35 billion a year over the next decade. Sanders’ plan for universal free college touted an estimated cost of $75 billion a year, along with billions more in contributions from state governments.
In addition to making public college free, Clinton is calling for a three-month moratorium on student loan repayments, during which debtors would be given a chance to consolidate their loans or sign up for lower-cost income-based repayment plans.