Hillary Clinton Proposal Includes Debt-Free College for Students Who Work

Election 2016
Posted By Eliana Osborn on November 11, 2015 at 4:14 pm
Hillary Clinton Proposal Includes Debt-Free College for Students Who Work

As part of Hilary Clinton’s $350 million higher education plan, the concept of free college is perhaps the most attention-grabbing. Recently, she’s given further details about the plan—explaining that government tuition help won’t be without strings attached.

What Clinton suggests is debt-free tuition for students who work ten hours a week. She casts this as extra help for those willing to work for it. This stands in contrast to the “work for it” of other plans that focus only on academic work in the guise of GPA requirements.

Clinton has discussed her own college history, where her family provided some funds, but she also had to work while going to school. Like many of her generation, this was enough to get through college without taking on student loan debt. These days, however, family savings plus a part-time job often aren’t even close to being enough to pay for all the expenses involved in higher education.

Different takes on debt-free college

Some note that a ten-hour work week for students would actually mean less work; even campus work study jobs usually entail more hours than the number Clinton suggests. Other candidate propositions for free college don’t talk about work requirements; though, Bernie Sanders has discussed increased spending on work-study programs, which are a significant portion of many aid packages. Some states have found a third path, like Tennessee where students getting free community college tuition have community service requirements.

According to Inside Higher Education, “Some research has found that students who work some amount during college — roughly between 10 and 15 hours a week — tend to have higher completion rates. Other research has found that students who participate in the federal work-study program are more likely to graduate and get jobs after college, though they also tend to take out loans to attend college.”

During the first Democratic presidential candidate debate, higher education was one topic addressed. Nothing new was introduced, but Clinton and Sanders each further explained their plans for how debt-free college would be put into place.

In-state tuition for undocumented students

One other component of Clinton’s education proposals is to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition for college. This is currently the policy in some states like California and Texas, but confusion remains elsewhere as deferred action (DACA) qualified youth are in limbo as to their legal status.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee first came up with the concept of debt-free college being proposed in both Sanders’ and Clinton’s plans. Their blueprint, published in the first half of 2015, states, “All students should have the ability to attend public colleges and universities and graduate without debt.” How to get to such a point—and what students will need to do as their part of the equation—are details still yet to be firmed up.

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

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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