Clinton to Unveil Student Loan Reform Proposal

[Content Note: Class warfare.]

I'm really glad the Democrats are seriously talking about this:
After the dust settles from the Republican debate and before she breaks from the campaign trail for her Hamptons vacation, Hillary Clinton on Monday will roll out what is expected to be the most detailed and costly plank of her campaign: her policy proposals for student loan reform.

"This will be the big ticket item," a source with knowledge of her rollout said, noting that in terms of her federal budgetary priorities, her plan for student loans will involve the largest investment. The source said the hope was to create a "mandate to act on college affordability"...

As part of her plan, Clinton is expected to unveil a federal-state partnership to increase funding for public colleges and universities, several sources said. The proposal is expected to create an incentive system for states to increase their investments in higher education — a commitment to increasing public college funding would trigger further investment from the federal government, reducing tuition overall and, more specifically, the portion financed by the student.

One comparison that has been made is to President Barack Obama's Race to the Top initiative, an almost $5 billion Education Department grant unveiled in 2009 for public schools, which creates incentives for how to deliver quality education.

Clinton is also expected to announce a proposal aimed at easing the financial burden for students who attend historically black colleges, a campaign source said. Her advisers have also discussed creating a bill of rights for student loan carriers and risk-sharing for colleges, which means schools could be penalized when students default or can't repay their loans.

...Both of Clinton's Democratic challengers have proposed some form of "free" college. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed making college tuition-free and providing $70 billion a year – two-thirds from the federal government, with states picking up the rest – to cover public college and university tuition and fees. But that proposal doesn't go far enough for some progressives, because it doesn't cover the full cost of attendance. Under Sanders' scenario, students would still be on the hook for necessary expenses – textbooks, room and board and other costs of attendance that aren't built into tuition and fees.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has made "debt-free education" a centerpiece of his run, promising to reduce or freeze public tuition rates, allow student loan refinancing and expand income-based repayment programs as part of a larger plan. States would play a role, too: to help colleges maintain quality, they'd have to sustain funding efforts, with help from federal matching grants.

Clinton's proposal is expected to provide more granular detail.

...Clinton's policy team for months has been conducting weekly calls and meetings with policy experts on the issue and devoted more time to the roll-out of student loan reform than to any other policy agenda.
So, one thing I don't see here—and I don't know if that's because it isn't being considered or because it just included in the teaser leaks—is loan forgiveness, partial or total, for people currently struggling because of existing student debt. I'll obviously be very interested to see what Clinton's plan does, if anything, for those repaying student loans now.

O'Malley has at least talked about "student loan refinancing" and "income-based repayment programs," but I don't know if that goes far enough. Still, it's better than nothing.

I don't mind Sanders' plan for tuition-free education, just because it isn't inclusive of room, board, and materials. Because that is way better than nothing. My major concern with Sanders' plan is that I feel like it has zero chance of passing through Congress.

Clinton's plan, at least from the sound of it (like O'Malley's), is less radical but also more likely to be realized.

All of that said, none of these proposals address the larger problem we're facing around higher education: Just like everyone needed to get a mortgage and buy a house a decade ago, now everyone needs to get student loans and buy an education. There's always some fucking one-size-fits-all solution being peddled to USians to mask the realities that our economy is a house of cards, the population has gone lopsided as Baby Boomers age, there just aren't enough jobs anymore, and there's a cavernous class divide facilitated by middle class-destroying economic policies that are promoted by politicians in both parties even as they propose individual solutions on how to get and stay in the middle class. Buy a house! (Whoops.) Buy an education! (Whoops.)

Individual solutions to systemic problems don't work, and telling young people to get an education at any cost, when the cost demonstrably includes for many of them fucking their adult lives before they've even started, is an individual solution to a systemic problem that's about trade policies, taxation, demographics, domestic spending priorities, and a whole host of other lumbering national issues over which an entire generation of young people has no control, no less any one individual young person.

What power the people had has been sold away.

US voters have sold away their standard of living, their quality of education, their jobs, their worker protections, their civil liberties, their social safety net, their national security, their environment, their economy, their very democracy itself—all in exchange for the gossamer promise of individual success, even though a society of disconnected individuals without responsibility for one another isn't a society at all.

And so the younger generations are left a broken nation, told to make their way with mortgaged bootstraps, to which has been pinned a notice of foreclosure.

All of which is inextricably tied to our failure to acknowledge that every job should earn a livable wage for the person who fills it.

We're stuck in this place in which people are told they need to get a college degree in order to make a decent living (and in most cases do), but then the allegedly decent living they were supposed to earn is frequently undermined by significant margins care of crushing student loan debt.

Especially when a college degree is now the prerequisite to get in the door of many jobs where a college degree isn't even really necessary. It's just a very expensive piece of paper that many employers use to judge potential employees based on their ability to buy that expensive piece of paper.

It isn't right, or fair, that a degree from an accredited university on a résumé makes a significantly different impression to most potential employers, irrespective of the relevance of that degree to the position, than "Self-Awarded Degree of General Education from Free Public Library" does.

And it isn't right, or fair, that people's intelligence is judged by acquiring that paper, when I know lots of very smart people who did not attend university, or didn't graduate, and I know lots of assholes who have more degrees than a thermometer. I don't think there's only one path in this life, and I don't mistake education for intelligence (or decency).

But so it is: University degrees are used as shorthand. And so lots and lots of people feel they have to have them, including many people who can't afford them.


My point is: Yes, student loan reform, please. But also? Reform our ideas about what college degrees mean plus livable goddamned wages for anyone who works.

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