By NEVA WARREN
What would you do with $28,950? That much money could buy a Mazda6 Sport. It could buy ten months in a Greenwich Village studio apartment or over ten thousand Crunchwrap Supremes from Taco Bell.
Hillary Clinton’s new college debt plan intends to make the average student debt ($28,950) a thing of the past. By 2021, families with income of less than $125,000 would not pay for public colleges or universities at all, and this free ride would apply immediately to families earning less than $85,000. This plan will be fully paid for by limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.
The plan also has a kicker for graduates: Clinton plans to offer refinance and delinquent forgiveness programs, as well as cut interest rates on student loans so that the government isn’t turning a profit from loan payback. Also, Clinton plans to give aspiring entrepreneurs $17,500 in loan forgiveness.
Michael Broache, an assistant professor of political science and international studies at UT said that this plan could benefit Hillary politically.
“It’s very likely targeted toward Millennials; those who have kind of incurred large amounts of college debt,” Broache said.
According to Broache this strategy is also an attempt bring young voters who are a declining demographic at the polls; 49.6 percent of people aged 18-24 voted in 1972, while only 38 percent voted in 2012, according to the Washington Post.
“A lot of the challenge is getting them out to the polls,” Broache said. “And this could be sort of a galvanizing issue for Clinton.”
So why does she support this particular initiative?
“I think a lot of the motivation for this policy stems from Bernie Sander’s proposals,” Broache said. “She is trying to rally around the supporters of Sanders to make sure they get out and vote on her behalf. If that block did not vote, Clinton would have a hard time winning.”
Don’t expect America to become a socialist state because of publicly funded colleges, though.
“There’s a distinction between the economic system and the political system,” Broache said. “There is nothing specifically authoritarian about having free college education, in fact many democracies have this. There’s nothing democratic or antidemocratic about free college education or subsidizing college education.”
Troy Schneider, the executive external vice president of Zeta Beta Tau and career development chairman of Student Government supports her debt-free college plan.
“In terms of my opinion on Secretary Clinton’s debt relief plan, I think that it is great,” Schneider said. “So many other developed countries in Europe already have this type of educational system implemented. It would be great to bring that over to America to make a college education more equitable.”
When asked if UT would change if this policy were to be implemented, Schneider said, “I personally do not think that there would be noticeable differences on UT’s campus if free public college were to become a thing. I also don’t think that the demographic would change much because most international students would probably still come to UT because they wouldn’t be getting a free college education at a public schools since they aren’t U.S. citizens.”
This college debt plan doesn’t suit every student, however. Alexa Szachacz, a freshman communications major, believes that this will put a financial burden onto the families who will still have to pay for college.
Because of the heavy cost of college now and in the past, many college students incurred debt simply by attending college. Szachacz believes that taxing these already financially burdened graduates would be unfair.
“I do not agree with the plan, personally,” Szachacz said. “It’s not fair to the others who had to pay, who still have to pay off their college debts, and on top of it they’re going to be being taxed to pay for other people’s colleges.”
She also worried how the policy would affect her after college.
“I don’t think it would affect me as a student because I go to a private college, but when I graduate, when you get a job you’re going to have to be paying those taxes and why should I have to pay for someone else’s college?” Szachacz seemed doubtful that this policy is honest.
“People love the word free, but in reality nothing is free,” Szachacz said. “I don’t think I have anything to gain [from this policy], and I think more private colleges will be popping up because public college will not be as significant anymore, their degree.”
When students were asked whether they would still attend UT if public colleges were free for families making less than $125,000, there were varying responses.
Keri Behles, a freshman digital arts major, said she would still attend, even if the policy were passed.
“My major is hard to find and my parents can afford [UT],” Behles said.
Grace Poulos, a freshman international and cultural relations major, enthusiastically said she would opt instead for the free college option.
“No, because it would allow me to not be in student debt,” Poulos said. “I’d be going to San Diego State [if public colleges were made free].”
Other students were on the fence about the policy.
“If public colleges were free, I would consider attending elsewhere,” said Francine Castillo, a freshman international business major.
Under the Clinton debt plan,colleges like University of South Florida, University of Florida, and Florida Atlantic University would be free to incoming students with a household income of less than $125,000; but as a private school, University of Tampa would still be entitled to charge whatever it wanted. The question becomes: will UT change if this policy is passed, and if so, how?
“Free college is a pipedream. It will never happen,” said Brent Benner, Director of Enrollment Management at the UT office of admissions. “Despite it being a noble idea from Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the math doesn’t add up to make free college a real possibility.”
Would free public college make UT a less socioeconomically diverse campus?
“No,” Benner said. “We do financial leveraging to maintain a socioeconomic balance and diverse campus.”
He reiterated that the University gives over $22,000,000 in need-based aid.
“UT is not a rich kid’s school,” Benner said.
At least one student interviewed would definitely transfer to a public college if this policy were implemented. So how would UT account for all the other students who would rather have free college?
“Possibly we would increase the volume of where UT travels to recruit new students,” Benner said. “We do whatever it takes to get students that would be a great fit here.”
Neva Warren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org