Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced a proposal on Wednesday to eliminate tuition at in-state public colleges and universities for families with annual incomes up to $125,000 — largely embracing a core position of Senator Bernie Sanders, who had pledged to make tuition at public institutions free for all students.
While stopping short of Mr. Sanders’s vision, the proposal is likely to hearten many of the senator’s young supporters who had flocked to his insurgent campaign. Mrs. Clinton and her aides are working to unite the party behind her before the Democratic National Convention begins on July 25 in Philadelphia. She and Mr. Sanders have already discussed the importance of featuring the issue of the affordability of higher education prominently in the general election.
Mr. Sanders, who has yet to end his candidacy and endorse Mrs. Clinton, praised her education proposal as a “very bold initiative” in a brief news conference in Washington on Wednesday, calling it a significant step for party unity. “The final product is the work of both campaigns,” he said — a clear sign of thawing relations between the two after a bitterly fought nominating contest.
The policy proposals come as Mrs. Clinton has been engaged in intensely personal sparring with Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and could be an effort to turn the page in her campaign a day after the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was sharply critical of her “extremely careless” use of a private email address and server.
Under Mrs. Clinton’s education proposal, the federal government would provide tuition grants to states that agree to put up some matching money. In some respects, the proposal was similar to one Mrs. Clinton made last year. At that time, however, she said she would expect families to make a “realistic contribution” to tuition payments.
Also, borrowing a key aspect of Mr. Sanders’s plan, the new proposal appears to make tougher demands on states than her previous one.
Education policy experts generally praised the new proposal, calling the requirements for state financial participation essential to reversing the drastic state cuts in higher education support. But some experts said details of the initiative — including exactly how it would work and be paid for — were sketchy, and raised concerns that some states would decline to contribute money.
They also raised questions about the impact on private colleges and universities with small endowments that compete with state institutions
“To the extent that it borrows from the Sanders system of federal-state matching, that’s a very significant step forward in our judgment,” said Barmak Nassirian, the director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, whose membership includes many regional public universities. “The reason prices have gone up is that states have been withdrawing their support.”
F. King Alexander, the chancellor of Louisiana State University, who has advocated a state matching requirement in federal education funding, said the Clinton campaign had been in contact with him about the proposal.
“The most important part of the plan is that the federal government plays a role in getting states to reinvest and keep higher education affordable at public colleges and universities,” Mr. Alexander said. “You can only play in the free college game if your state maintains its commitment.”
Mrs. Clinton had previously raised questions about that aspect of Mr. Sanders’s plan, saying it gave states the ability to opt out, just as some had done with Medicaid expansion. As recently as this spring, Mrs. Clinton scoffed at the idea that Republican governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin — who has slashed state spending on the University of Wisconsin — would ever go along with Mr. Sanders and support state matching funds to qualify for his proposed federal tuition grants. She was almost surely right — and on Wednesday, a spokesman for Mr. Walker said the governor would not go along with her plan, either, seeing it as costly and ineffective.
The Clinton campaign was struggling with the question of what would happen if some states refused to participate, said an education expert who was consulted on the plan.
In addition to possible opposition from states that would not want to pay or that resent federal intrusion, the plan might face resistance from private colleges and universities that compete with public institutions receiving the federal money, even though it pledges $25 billion over 10 years to help historically black colleges and other private colleges with modest endowments.
“Our biggest concern with it is how it limits student choice,” said Sarah A. Flanagan, the vice president of government relations for the 965-member National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “It would put a lot of subsidies — well over $100 billion in new money — towards major economic incentives for people to go to their in-state public colleges, not even out-of-state public colleges. It certainly limits student choice.”
Mrs. Clinton had previously said she would raise the money for her education plan, estimated last year to cost $350 billion over 10 years, by limiting deductions for high-income taxpayers. The additional cost of the proposals announced Wednesday would be covered by closing tax loopholes, particularly those used by hedge funds and private equity firms, the campaign said. Mr. Sanders had said his plan to make college tuition free would have cost $70 billion a year, with one-third of that paid for by states.
As part of her package of proposals, Mrs. Clinton, who speaks often on the campaign trail of her plans for debt-free college education, is also calling for a three-month moratorium on the repayment of federal student loans. The move, which the campaign said would be carried out through executive action if Mrs. Clinton becomes president, would allow borrowers to refinance loans or restructure high-interest debt.
Mrs. Clinton is also pledging to restore year-round Pell Grant funding, her campaign said, in the hopes of aiding students seeking summer courses, and will also require that students work 10 hours a week to help pay the cost of their college attendance.
If adopted, her initiative would take shape over several years, the campaign said, initially covering students whose families make $85,000 a year or less. The threshold would increase by $10,000 a year until it reached $125,000 in 2021.
The announcement arrives as Mr. Sanders and his allies seek to exert maximum influence over the official Democratic platform, hoping to push Mrs. Clinton to the left on a number of fronts.
Adam Green, one of the founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an advocacy group, said the announcement on Wednesday “should be welcome news for Bernie Sanders supporters.”
“This represents a doubling down by Hillary Clinton on the idea that if you’re a student in America, you should be able to attend your state’s public colleges or universities and graduate with zero debt,” Mr. Green said in a statement. “It would be smart general election messaging if the popular idea of debt-free college with a tuition-free component gets enshrined in the Democratic platform.”
At his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Sanders said: “I want to take this opportunity this afternoon to applaud Secretary Clinton for the very bold initiative she has brought forth for the financing of higher education. This proposal combines some of the strongest ideas which she fought for during the campaign with some of the principles that I fought for.”
[Source:- The New york Times]