Free College Is Not Free, Hillary

Bruce Bialosky
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Posted: Aug 23, 2015 12:01 AM
Free College Is Not Free, Hillary

I hate to kick a lady when she is down, but once again Hillary has forced me to respond to her. This time it is her recent nonsense which she refers to as “The New College Compact” and the rest of us can refer to as Hillary’s “Get Out Of College for Free Card.”

There is definitely a problem with the cost of college today. The massive debt is inhibiting recent graduates from buying their own homes and starting their own businesses. That there is a problem is agreed to universally except for all the freeloaders at universities sucking up tuition dollars for the nonsense they provide. There are a few that purport the problem derives from not enough government involvement. Then there are the crazies like myself (see also Heather Mac Donald) who have written about the exploding cost of a college education that the Left has refused to address.

Ms. Clinton’s plan addresses issues regarding college finance and almost totally and completely fails to get at the issue of affordability. Let me count the ways the plan fails:

1. The plan starts from the wrong premise. The first thing the plans states as the problem is that “States are slashing education budgets.” That is not the first problem. The second thing the proposal asserts is the primary problem, which is the soaring costs of college. The cost of college in the last fifteen years has soared at almost five times the rate of inflation and more than double the increase in one of our worst problems – medical costs.

We might actually begin to live with this if we saw some tangible results. But we are not producing enough doctors or nurses to handle our population and we have to import our engineers from India to work for our tech companies. The only profession our schools seem to produce in more than adequate numbers is lawyers.

2. The Clinton plan does little to address the real problem of the soaring costs and nothing about the useless degrees. The only thing she proposes is that new money be spent on instruction and learning. There is no attempt to control the massive payrolls of administrative staff that currently exists.

3. The plan does what all Democrats like to do – pick on for-profit colleges that might engage in deceptive marketing or fraud. It does not address the supposedly non-profit colleges (whose presidents often make $1 million salaries) for misleading their students or not providing the classes necessary to graduate in four years or providing a degree which is a road to bartending or retail store clerking.

4. The plan is another destructive force against federalism. It clearly states that the legislation will run roughshod over state schools not performing to the federal standards in multiple areas. The feds already have far too much control over state and private schools through Pell Grants and other forms of funding. This plan flat sticks the federal government in the nose of every school’s operating costs. To quote Mrs. Clinton, “They’re going to have to think twice about whether they really need a new rec center.” Does anyone believe that the bureaucracy created to enforce this plan would not delve into all aspects of operations and effectively turn control over our state college systems to the feds? Ms. Clinton is proposing supervision of loans going forward be in the hands of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, further concentrating power in the hands of an agency with no Congressional supervision.

5. Ms. Clinton proposes to pay for this by doing what all liberals fall back on as a funding source – taxing THE RICH. She has stated she will limit the deductibility of itemized deductions on high-income taxpayers. The definition of a “high-income taxpayer” is in the eye of the beholder. If she were successful in further limiting itemized deductions beyond what they are now (Obamacare instituted a limitation which is layered on top of the Alternative Minimum Tax limitation for many taxpayers), she would have to eliminate almost all the deductions currently used by anyone making above $150,000 (my guess and that is not wealthy) or maybe even less to cover the estimated $35 billion (it will be more) in annual funding. I immediately thought the charitable community will go nuts about this proposal because they get most of their funds from people with those incomes. Sure enough, I received an email from their trade organization the very next day after the proposal was released pleading with Clinton to exempt them from any part of her plan.

6. Let me state there is one part of the proposal that makes sense. Anyone holding a college loan should be able to easily and affordably refinance their loan if there is a more reasonable loan rate. That is just common sense. But that comes at a cost as most of these loans are held by the federal government and we will receive less revenue from these loans. This plan does not account for that lost revenue which could run into the billions of dollars.

This plan is the stepping stone to what the Left wants to be able to do and may include in the eventual legislation whether Ms. Clinton wants it or not: qualify student loans to be included in bankruptcy filings from which they are currently excluded. With the stigma and ramifications of bankruptcy evaporating in our country, we will soon see a flood of bankruptcy filings. Then the destructive cost of a college education that has been shifted from the college elite to the students will be successfully shifted to the population as a whole, 70 percent of whom will never attend college, and presumably earn even less than the ones free of their commitment to pay for their college education. Just throw another $1 trillion on the national debt pile ($115 billion is already in default).

I give Ms. Clinton credit for making a proposal. I just wish it would be a serious proposal. This is nothing more than a way to attempt to secure the Millennials’ vote for her. Even the most free-market-oriented students will be hard-pressed to not want $50,000 - $100,000 of college debt off their backs. The thing is this is just smoke and mirrors. The revenue offset will never reach the levels of the ever-soaring benefit provided, and our federal debt will just continue to grow with a new entitlement. That debt will burden these young people for the rest of their lives.