Higher ed in the spotlight at DNC

Clinton promises to 'liberate millions of people' from student debt

Among the many central topics at the Democratic National Convention last week was the cost and financing of higher education. 

In Hillary Clinton's speech Thursday night, the first given by a female presidential candidate of a major political party, she declared that she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) would "make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all." She also promised to "liberate millions of people who already have student debt."

Both Clinton's and Sanders' campaigns have focused on college affordability, and many Democrats hope this emphasis will ensure a large turnout of young voters.

On the first night of the convention, Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) both touted debt-free college, while Sanders spoke of the revolution that would arise from a free college proposal endorsed by both him and Clinton.

In July, Clinton's campaign announced a plan that would eliminate college tuition for many students. 

Hillary Clinton endorses free college tuition

Under the proposal, students from families with annual incomes under $125,000—more than 80% of families currently sending students to college—would be able to attend public institutions in their home state at no tuition cost.

The plan would also impose a three-month moratorium on student loan repayments for new graduates. During that break, borrowers would get support refinancing their loans for lower interest rates or applying for an income-based repayment structure.

Students don't speak "financial aid"

"It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs," Clinton said in her speech Thursday, just after promising to "liberate millions of people" burdened with student debt. 

How to predict financial attrition

Rep. Eric Swalwell, 35, (D-California) told the Democrats' Youth Council that he still carries six figures of student debt. 

"It affects our ability to buy a house, get a job, to be entrepreneurial," Swalwell said.

And National Urban League President Marc Morial brought up the gap between financial aid and the full cost of college attendance, which he says blocks the path to new jobs (Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, 7/27; Lorenz, The Hill, 4/27; Los Angeles Times, 7/28). 

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