Thursday Hillary Clinton unveiled an ambitious $8 billion plan to improve higher education affordability and push college accountability.
Speaking in New Hampshire, she harked to access, a theme she has turned to throughout her campaign. Her Web site contains details of the plan here.
The heart of the plan is an expansion of the Hope tax credit to $3,500, which includes a provision for what was dubbed "advanceability." In addition to increasing the credit from $1,650, she calls for making the first $1,000 in tuition costs fully deductible. The new credit will be partially refundable and will be "advanceable" so families can receive the tax credit when their tuition bills are due.
She took on Pell grants, too, saying she wants to adjust them annually so they keep pace with college costs. She wants colleges to establish multi-year tuition rates so families can better plan education costs, rather than waiting year to year to find out how much more they must shell out or borrow.
The plan includes $500 million in incentive grants to help community colleges make sure students complete degrees; the money also goes toward two-year/four-year institution partnerships to increase graduation rates and promote smooth transfers.
There is $250 million to help improve graduation rates from four-year colleges, too.
Worker training is addressed with $250 million for on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.
Americorps also receives a boost in the Clinton proposal. She wants to double the education award associated with the two-year public service program, increasing it to $10,000.
For those tired of filling out FAFSA forms, whether online or in print, Clinton proposes a simpler way to apply for federal assistance: checking a box on the income tax return.
The accountability portion, which targets the institutions themselves, includes three components:
An online college cost calculator so people can figure out the amount of aid a student likely will receive, and how much he or she must pay with other funds, for the institution the student wants to attend.
A graduation and graduate-employment rate index, maintained by the Department of Education, for all colleges and universities. The employment index would include information on earnings, as well.
Multi-year tuition projections so students will know from the freshman year on how much they must pay over the course of their education at that institution.
According to her Web site, the massive plan won't increase the deficit. Clinton calls for eliminating the guaranteed student loan program and using a portion of the proceeds expected from freezing the estate tax at $7 million per couple.
There is sure to be skeptical response to the plan, but it touches almost all the higher education student constituencies, with the exception of graduate students.
So we're looking at universal pre-Kindergarten and more affordable and accessible higher education. Now we'll see what she proposes for the students in the middle.
~ Cathy Grimes