Hillary Clinton unveiled her new and improved plan for making higher education more affordable. A few of her policy ideas are refreshed retreads, some others break new ground, and a few don’t do anything at all. For example:

1. “Students should never have to borrow to pay for tuition, books, and fees to attend a 4-year public college in their state…”

Secretary Clinton proposes that the federal government support this goal with additional funding, the states maintain their own contribution at current levels, and students forfeit their earnings from working 10 hours per week.

In other words, this really isn’t “free tuition,” as the Clinton plan suggests when it talks about “never having to borrow,” is it? Not when students are required to cover part of the cost. And the scope of it is rather broad, in that Clinton proposes to also cover fees, books and some living expenses.

Frankly, I would sooner replicate the simpler approach that’s being taken by other countries that value higher education: Cover the price of tuition and leave everything else to the student. After all, we’re talking about attendance at in-state schools, presumably that could be within a reasonable commuting distance from home.

2. “The Federal government…will never again profit off student loans for college students.”

This apparently pertains to existing debts if tuition does indeed become free for in-state college attendees, and, I suppose, for the financing of private-school tuition. Either way, I can argue this point from two different angles.

First, the reason why the government is reporting outsize profits on its student loan programs is because the feds are, in effect, borrowing short and lending long. In plain English, that means the government is taking advantage of historically low, short-term rates by issuing one to three-month Treasury Notes to fund loans that are expected to span 10 or more years in duration.

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Mitchell D. Weiss
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