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The Truth About Clinton’s ‘Debt-Free’ College Plan

Blue piggy bank with a graduation cap
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A major highlight from last month’s Democratic National Convention was Hillary Clinton’s talk about college student loan debt. As a young professional with two degrees and too many loans, I listened intently as Hillary spoke about this.

In undergrad, I worked as a Community Assistant in order to receive free housing. I also earned a few scholarships and grants, but I still needed Sallie Mae to pay for my meal plan, books, and other costs. In graduate school I worked full-time, so I was able to pay for some of my courses with my own money. But yet again, I turned to Sallie Mae to borrow some change.

Paying student loans is truly a headache. It feels like an annoying, expensive bill that won’t go away. This is why I have been so interested in the idea of “free college” and “removing student debt” since politicians have entertained the notion.

Weeks ago before the convention, Hillary Clinton announced her “Debt-Free College plan” — aka the New College Compact plan — one that would possibly lower the debt for college students. At the convention, Hillary spoke more of her plans to solve the college student debt crisis faced by millions of young Americans pursuing a higher education. In her speech she proudly stated, “Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all! We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt. It’s just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can’t refinance theirs.”

College affordability and the nightmare of student loan debt has always been a hot topic of discussion, and after hearing about Clinton’s plan, many are becoming hopeful.

After researching the New College Compact plan, I spoke with many friends and coworkers, and I’ve noticed that many people have confused her proposal with thinking that 4-year universities will be free if her plan succeeds. Please note, 100% free college will not exist for any college, according to Hillary’s current plan. Yes, her plan will cover some of the costs, but it has its limits. Here are the details:

1) Only tuition will be free for eligible students.

On Hillary’s website it states, “From the start of this plan, every student from a family making $85,000 a year or less will be able to go to a 4-year public college or university tuition-free. This income threshold will increase by $10,000 a year every year over the next four years so that by 2021, all students with a family income of $125,000 will have the opportunity to pay no tuition. She will also continue her commitment to ensure that community colleges are tuition-free for all working families.”

In college, your tuition cost is just a portion of the huge bill that you have to pay. In addition to paying for tuition, you have to pay for a meal plan, housing, books, and other excess fees that the school may slap on your student bill. Please note, Hillary’s new plan will only pay for tuition costs.

2) The plan will only apply to you if you are attending an in-state school.

Thousands of Americans attend college out of state for a number of reasons. Maybe that out of state school is the college of their dreams, maybe it has the best program that is needed for their degree, or maybe the student wants to experience something different like a new living environment. Under Hillary’s new plan, you will not benefit if you don’t choose to attend an in-state institution. Her plan will only cover you if you attend a school in your state.

3) Some states can opt out.

Let’s say that Hillary becomes our next POTUS (and first female president) and her college debt plan passes. If the state that you live in doesn’t agree to the plan, you won’t benefit. This new plan will be preferred for all states to elect, but it won’t be mandatory.

4) Private universities won’t be included.

The thought that private universities would be included is something that I saw all over my social media timeline. All throughout Hillary’s site, only “public” universities are noted, not private. Private universities are not funded by the government, so if the plan passes and you attend a private university, your tuition will not be covered. Remember, public universities are funded primarily through the government and state taxes. Private schools, on the other hand, rely on other sources such as endowments and donations from others for funding.

Although Hillary’s plan won’t cover 100% of our ever-increasing college debt, if passed it will help some out. What are your thoughts on the “Debt-free College” plan? Share your opinions below!