Hillary Clinton's New College Compact is a promising initiative for union leaders long frustrated with policies that continue to squeeze students and families financially and make higher education less accessible.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Clinton in July, called Clinton's plan "a systemic, sustainable vision that solves these challenges, and by so doing reasserts higher education as a public good and renews hope for millions of American families."
The plan, expected to cost $350 billion over 10 years, would:
- Lower interest rates on student loans;
- Create new grants for private colleges with small endowments and serve large numbers of low-income and minority students;
- Make rules for for-profit higher education tougher; and
- Expand AmeriCorps, promising funds for tuition or student loans in return for national service.
Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions and an AFT vice president, said Clinton's plan at last offers a national solution to a national problem by making college affordability a shared responsibility.
"Hillary's plan nails it. By incentivizing states to reinvest in their higher education institutions, the compact will reduce the financial burden on students — particularly students from disadvantaged communities — and increase investment in faculty and instruction."
Under the plan, states would receive grants for four-year public colleges that create no-loan tuition plans for students and for community colleges that charge no tuition. The amount of the grants would be based on the proportion of low- and middle-income students enrolled at the institution. States also would receive other incentives to stop the disinvestment in public higher education.
College expenses for families would be based on financial need with an expectation that students work 10 hours a week. Borrowing rates would be "reasonable."
If a state declines to participate in the compact, the U.S. Department of Education would step in to help.
Colleges are not spared responsibility. If too many students fail to graduate or are burdened with debts, the college would be penalized.
For more details about the compact, visit www.hillaryclinton.com/p/briefing/factsheets/2015/08/10/college-compact/.