NAICU Washington Update

National Democrats Release Draft Party Platform; Clinton Announces Higher Education Proposals

July 13, 2016

Within days of each other, the National Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, both announced their priorities for higher education.

2016 Democratic Party Platform

In preparation for its national convention (July 25-28 in Philadelphia, PA), the Democratic Party released a draft 2016 Party Platform covering nearly all aspects of the Party’s public policy agenda, from global terrorism to domestic health and environmental issues.

In addressing the Party’s vision for higher education policy (pages 20-22 of the Platform), national Democrats call for “bold new investments from the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs.” The plan calls for free community college, as well as the preservation and protection of minority-serving institutions.

On the issue of student debt, the platform envisions allowing all borrowers to refinance their loans at lower interest rates, simplifying and expanding access to the income-based loan repayment programs, cutting interest rates for future borrowers, holding lenders and servicers accountable, and permitting students to have student loans discharged in bankruptcy.

Finally, the agenda targets for-profit colleges, promising to crack down on fraud, abuse, and deceptive practices within the sector by strengthening the gainful employment rules and other regulatory actions.

Clinton Higher Education Proposals

While the 2016 Party Platform does not reference free public college for bachelor’s degree-awarding institutions, Clinton recently announced a proposal to make all in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for students and families making less than $125,000 per year. According to the Clinton campaign, more than 80% of families would benefit from this plan, which is estimated to cost $450 billion over ten years, a figure that has not been independently analyzed.

Of particular note, Clinton’s plan retains a $25 billion funding stream to provide aid to private, nonprofit colleges (with a particular focus on “Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions and other low-cost, modest-endowment private schools”) that are enrolling high percentages of Pell Grant recipients. The details on this part of the plan are lacking.

Additionally, the plan calls for a three-month moratorium on all student loan payments in order to allow borrowers to refinance at lower interest rates and/or enroll in the income-based repayment programs.

Clinton also announced a plan allowing startup business founders, and their early employees, to defer student debt payment for up to three years. It includes loan forgiveness of up to $17,500 for “young innovators” who provide “social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit,” or who launch their new businesses in distressed communities.

Clinton’s new higher education policy proposals are a nod toward the campaign ideas put forth by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who had previously called for free public college for all. Earlier in the spring, Clinton had proposed a more nuanced “New College Compact,” which called for families to make an “affordable and realistic family contribution” to finance the pursuit of a college degree. While the plan had called for “debt-free” public college, she had stopped short of calling for the complete subsidization of state colleges by the federal government, and had not previously identified specific income thresholds for the plan.

MORE News from NAICU