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Hillman speaks with Chronicle of Higher Education about Clinton’s ‘free college’ plan

July 29, 2016

The Chronicle of Higher Education on July 27 posted an in-depth article taking a look at Hillary Clinton’s “New College Compact,” which includes a plan — adapted from her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders — that would cover tuition for students from families making up to $125,000.

The report is headlined, “How Clinton’s ‘Free College’ Could Cause a Cascade of Problems.”

Chronicle reporters Scott Carlson and Beckie Supiano interviewed numerous higher education experts for this story, including UW-Madison’s Nicholas Hillman. He is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Hillman also is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE)

Nicholas Hillman
The article notes: “Some proponents have suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s policy would get more people to and through college, but price isn’t the only thing keeping people from going, Mr. Hillman says. Even during the recession, only relatively modest shares of unemployed young adults pursued college, suggesting that some potential students haven’t bought into the idea of getting more education.”

“You can make college free all day long,” Hillman tells the Chronicle. “They’re not going to go back.”

The report adds: “You might think that a plan that saves students money, possibly reducing how much they must work outside of class, ought to help students graduate, Mr. Hillman says. But graduation rates are higher overall at private four-year colleges than at public ones. That pattern probably can't all be chalked up to the colleges themselves — the students who enroll matter too — but it makes it harder to think of the plan as a boon to college completion.”

As the Chronicle story explains: “In the end, the free-college proposal is about one thing: mitigating debt.”

“Every student should have the option to graduate from a public college or university in their state without taking on any student debt," says the sentence leading into a description of Mrs. Clinton’s free-tuition plan on her website.

But to learn much more about this hot-button topic, check out the detailed report on this web page.

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