Higher Ed Political Talk By Maya Walker Lawrence


If you’ve gotten a chance to see any interactions between the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, it is quite obvious that these two are infatuated with each other – I kid! During this week’s presidential debate the world saw firsthand how dissimilar Hillary and Donald are. Just like the candidates themselves, their plans for Higher Education couldn’t be any more different! For instance, in a town hall event earlier this year, Trump said that education was one of the three most important priorities of the federal government, but he has pledged to drastically cut or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education during his presidency. Hillary has made it clear she would not eliminate the department, but has not released a plan to revamp or scale back the size of the department.

When it comes to college access, Hillary’s proposal “The New College Compact” would eventually allow students to attend in-state, four-year public colleges and universities tuition free for students whose families’ income is $125,000 or less by 2021. Her plan will also create funds to support private nonprofit schools that serve low- and middle-income students such as private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In contrast, Trump has not spoken or published much on Higher Education, but he has said that he would fight proposals for debt-free public higher education and tuition-free public higher education. According to his website, Trump will ensure that the opportunity to attend a two or four year college, or to pursue a trade or skills set through vocational and technical education, will be easier to access, pay for, and finish.

In regards to student loans, around one-third of the funds for Clinton’s New College Compact would go toward relief on interest from student debt, which will allow a significant cut to the interest rate on federal student loans. Hillary is proposing a plan that would consolidate the four income-based repayment programs into a single program with the same rules for everyone: Every student borrower will know they can enroll in a program where they never have to pay more than 10 percent of income, with college debt forgiven after 20 years so that those who consistently make payments can move on in their lives. Her plan will also streamline the process through which borrowers enroll in income-based repayment by using existing government data. Entrepreneurs would be able to defer their student loans with no payments or interest for up to three years.  She would also reward public service through loan forgiveness for AmeriCorps members and teachers who teach in high-need areas or in subjects with teacher shortages. According to Trump’s Campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, the republican candidate wants to move the government out of lending and restore that role to private banks. Trump believes local banks should be lending to local students. He also wants colleges to play a role in determining loan worthiness on factors that go beyond family income. For example, colleges should factor in future earnings when deciding whether or not to give a student a loan. Trump’s camp suggest that schools should think carefully before liberal arts majors at non-elite institutions are allowed to borrow based on their future earnings.

Who is really accountable? Trump believes that all colleges should have skin in the game and share the risk associated with student loans. Per Clovis, no institution should be exempt from the risk, even schools with histories of educating many students from low-income families. The risk for giving student loans needs to be substantial enough to change the way colleges decide whether to admit students and what programs they offer. As an example, Clovis noted that colleges should be careful lending to liberal arts majors because they don’t necessarily have job security after graduation. Lastly, Trump suggests that colleges should not admit students that they are not confident will graduate in a reasonable time frame and find jobs. Admissions and loans should be based on a partnership between the student, the bank and college. Hillary feels that colleges and universities should be upfront about graduation rates, likely earning and debt and how those metrics compare with other schools- similar to the Student Protection and Success Act introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). She plans to put additional pressure on for-profit institutions by defending and strengthening the gainful employment rule to ensure that schools are adequately supporting students to complete their degrees and preparing them for work. She also plans on expanding support for the CFBP, FTC, DOJ, and VA to enforce laws against deceptive marketing fraud and other illegal practices.

Although, Trump has been extremely quiet about his plans for higher education, what he has said or published has been a complete contrast of Clinton’s proposals. How will these proposals affect our students, our institutions, and our communities? As Financial Aid Professionals these are questions that must be on our radar during these elections! See you all at the polls- November 8!


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