Clinton Presses Sanders Over Cost, Realism of Tuition-Free College at Wisconsin Debate

Election 2016
Posted By Derek Johnson on February 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm
Clinton Presses Sanders Over Cost, Realism of Tuition-Free College at Wisconsin Debate
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton makes a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, reacts during Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. AP Photo/Morry Gash

At the sixth Democratic debate in Wisconsin, former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) argued that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ tuition-free college proposal was unrealistic and would rely too much on the cooperation of Republican governors that do not share Sanders’ goals.

“One [key point] is that if you don’t have some agreement within the system from states and families and from students, it’s hard to get to where we need to go,” said Clinton. “And Senator Sanders’ plan really rests on making sure that governors, like Scott Walker, contribute $23 billion on the first day to make college free. I am a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that.”

Candidates usually avoid taking swipes at home-state politicians during debates, but Walker (who ran his own brief presidential campaign before dropping out in September last year) is a lightning rod for Wisconsin Democrats. He has cut state education spending deeply during his tenure, and Clinton expressed doubt that Walker and other GOP governors will go along with Sanders’ unapologetic spending and taxing plans.

Sanders did not directly respond to Clinton’s questioning, instead pivoting back to his regular argument that tuition-free college is needed to compete with the rest of the industrialized world.

“One hundred, 150 years ago incredibly brave Americans said, you know what, working class kids, low-income kids should not have to work in factories or on the farms. Like rich kids, they deserve to get a free education,” said Sanders. “And that free education of extraordinary accomplishment was from first grade to 12th grade. The world has changed. This is 2016. In many ways, a college degree today is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50, 60 years ago.”

Coming off an electoral bruising in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton sought to cast Sanders’ tuition-free college as one of a series of empty promises that ignore the bitterly polarized and gridlocked nature of the country. During a back-and-forth on their dueling healthcare proposal, Clinton told Sanders “This is about people’s lives, and we should level with the American people about what we can do.”

Sanders stayed on message and later called on the American people to make his proposals possible through a political revolution.

“Don’t listen to the Trumps of the world and allow them to divide us. If we reengage and get involved, yeah, we can have health care for all people, we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free. We do not have to have massive levels of income and wealth inequality,” said Sanders.

For more political coverage, see our special Election 2016 section.

Derek Johnson
Derek Johnson is a writer, journalist and editor based out of Virginia. He received a Master’s degree in Public Policy at George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University.

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