Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Free College-Tuition Plan Short on Specifics

Hillary Clinton, who prides herself on the details of public policy, has said little about what is now the most ambitious and expensive proposal on her agenda: making public college tuition free for most Americans.

On the campaign trail, she typically offers a sentence, maybe two, about the plan. Sometimes it goes unmentioned altogether. Her campaign has offered few specifics about how the program would work, hasn’t said how much money states would have to provide or where the program would fall on her list of priorities.

The campaign website no longer lists a cost for the program, though campaign aides said they estimate it would take $500 billion in new federal spending over 10 years, $150 billion more than the college plan she put out last summer. Others estimate the costs would be much higher.

The sketchiness may owe something to the way the free-tuition plan came to be part of Mrs. Clinton’s platform. Rather than taking months or years to craft, like many of her other proposals, it was inserted as part of negotiations in July to win the backing of Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, who tracks higher education and other issues at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, said it was obvious that the plan was put together to win over Mr. Sanders.

Most of Mrs. Clinton’s policy proposals “are five pages of dense text with very specific ways of how they’re going to pay for it and how much it would cost,” she said. “This sounded much more like something intended to energize a campaign rally.”

The Clinton plan still is more detailed than most of the ideas put forth by her opponent, Republican Donald Trump, who doesn’t typically give the cost of his plans and sometimes changes significant planks. Still, Mrs. Clinton prides herself on her policy chops and says candidates owe it to voters to be clear about their plans. Mr. Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mrs. Clinton says she would pay for the college plan with higher taxes on the wealthy, including new limits on deductions. Campaign aides said that once school is back in session and younger voters are paying more attention, she would talk more about the college plan.

Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said Mrs. Clinton is “deeply committed” to the revised plan. “Hillary Clinton put forward an ambitious proposal in the primary and, after listening to voters on the campaign trail, expanded it to more effectively reach the goal of erasing the barrier of debt to a college of education,” he said.

Passing this program into law will be a challenge, though, particularly if Republicans continue to control at least one house of Congress. Even some Democrats think Mrs. Clinton’s first proposal would have a better chance and worry that the revised version is too heavy a lift.

The new Clinton policy was described in a single paragraph issued by the campaign in early July amid talks with Mr. Sanders, who had campaigned against her in the primary on a more expansive free-tuition plan. His concept was that public colleges should be free for all, like public high schools.

Mrs. Clinton had already put forth a detailed plan last summer to assure that students could attend public colleges without borrowing money for tuition, but she said families should contribute what they could afford. To win over Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton agreed that students in families earning $85,000 a year or less would be assured free tuition, with that threshold climbing to $125,000 over four years.

The political goals were clear. The policy was a priority for Mr. Sanders, and after her shift, he endorsed her. She also put herself in position to appeal to younger voters, who overwhelmingly backed Mr. Sanders in the primaries and are an important part of the coalition that twice elected President Barack Obama.

In his speech at July’s Democratic National Convention endorsing Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders specifically cited this policy shift. It was one of several she made that were key to winning his support, including an agreement to back additional funding for community health centers.

For now, the new plan appears to cut against two points Mrs. Clinton made during the primaries.

First, she had long described her plan, which she calls the New College Compact, as a balanced way of making sure all players have “skin in the game,” including federal and state governments, universities, families and students. “I think it ought to be a compact,” she said during a Democratic debate last year. “Families contribute, kids contribute.”

Under her new plan, 80% of families would qualify for tuition-free school, even if they could afford some contribution. A Clinton aide replied by noting that students are still expected to have a job that will help pay expenses, and said that it is most important that government pay its fair share.

Second, one of her chief criticisms of the Sanders tuition-free plan was that it relied on governors, including critical Republican governors, to put up one-third of the funding. But her plan requires substantial state contributions as well, though her campaign hasn't specified how much.

The Clinton aide said states will be more likely to fund her plan because it would be phased in gradually.

She did stick by her view, voiced often during the primaries, that the government shouldn’t offer free tuition to very rich families.

Other aspects of the Clinton plan would lower borrowing costs for existing borrowers and those who attend private colleges, and would make community college free.

Meantime, Mrs. Clinton appears to be offering another change to her program that she hasn’t yet explained. In an economic speech on Thursday, she promised “tuition-free” college for the middle class, and “debt-free college” for everyone.

Aides said debt-free is a goal meant to assure no student has to borrow money to pay any college costs, including room, board and other expenses, which can represent half the total costs. That goes beyond her original concept and isn’t detailed in the pages of facts sheets provided by her campaign.

Many advocates welcome the expansions. Tamara Draut, of the advocacy group Demos, which promotes debt-free college, said it is essential that students be able to pay for all college expenses without taking loans, and that this is her understanding of the Clinton plan. She said she expects more details to come.

“I think we’re a long way from governing and there is more detail there than her opponent’s policy platforms, for sure,” she said.


UK: Cambridge brings back its written entrance exam after 30 years

It was designed to identify the nation’s brightest students but was dropped 30 years ago amid accusations that it favoured the better-off.

Now the written entrance exam for Cambridge University is being reintroduced for all applicants, sparking new concerns that it will discriminate against state school pupils less likely to benefit from expensive coaching than pupils of fee-paying schools.

Critics of the idea include former Labour Minister Alan Milburn, now chairman of a social mobility commission, who warned that Cambridge risked raising ‘further barriers’ for bright students from less advantaged backgrounds.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal some of the conundrums that candidates may face.

One question from a sample paper requires students to discuss whether ‘the recent European migrant crisis has challenged or reinforced racism’. Another is more philosophical, asking: ‘Must all revolutions necessarily fail?’

Would-be undergraduates may also be asked to compose an essay on the writer George Orwell’s observation that ‘there are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them’, or tackle maths puzzles.

The tests are tailored for different subjects and mix traditional essay topics with multiple choice questions. They are being brought back by the university because while so many applicants achieve As or A*s at A-level, fewer are taking AS-levels, a traditional indicator of academic potential.

The new university-wide written exams, which will replace a hotch-potch of tests already faced by about half of those applying, will be sat by every candidate while they are still at school. The first will take place this October and November.

They will not, however, replace the university’s notoriously tricky interview at which candidates are often put on the spot by fiendish questions such as ‘Instead of politicians, why don’t we let the managers of Ikea run the country?’

Cambridge said the exams, which will be sat by pupils in the year before they take their A-levels, should not require any extra study and were just one of a number of assessments used to determine whether teenagers should be offered a place.

A spokesman said many of the questions were designed to find out how students approached complex issues, and would help the university select those with the skills to cope with demanding courses.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘For the sake of the whole country, Cambridge and other leading universities need to concentrate on identifying the brightest and the best.’


British universities compete to sign up students
Universities are desperately competing for applicants as thousands of students weigh up their options after receiving their A-level results today.

Institutions are battling to fill an expanded number of first year places following a change in regulation restricting the number of students allowed each year.

A record-breaking 424,000 students have secured a place in higher education - despite a 0.1 per cent drop in the number of pupils achieving the top grades from last year.

Experts have said it is a 'buyers' market' for students with many places still available through clearing, including courses at elite Russell Group universities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Warwick. One admissions officer said students have a 'better chance than ever' of winning a place.

Some universities are trying to generate excitement with gimmicks like Willy Wonka-style 'golden tickets'. Others have called in dozens of staff to man call centres in a bid to lure more students through clearing.

Boys managed to bridge the gender gap for the first time in five years – with 8.5 per cent of male entries getting A*, compared with 7.7 per cent for girls.

For A grades, girls continue to have the edge over their male counterparts - with 25.9 per cent achieving the coveted grade compared with 25.8 per cent.

Stand-out results across the country today included an 18-year-old girl who overcame a brain tumour to land three A*s, identical twins who obtained exactly the same results in the same subjects and a Disney princess who passed her exams despite spending just three months revising while filming for a children's musical.

The overall pass rate - those achieving grades A* to E - remained at 98.1 per cent, while the proportion of A* and A grades was 25.8 per cent - down by 0.1 percentage point on last year.

Today's results also revealed a double-digit increase in the percentage of EU students being awarded university places, with 26,800 being placed (11 per cent) as they rushed to secure a higher education place before Brexit. 

Ucas head Mary Curnock Cook said: 'The UK has some of the best universities in the world so it doesn't surprise me that the Brexit vote doesn't seem to have put EU students off studying here.'


No comments: