Debt-free plan proposed could affect students

By Liz Hardaway, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Hillary Clinton’s debt-free college plan could be detrimental to Ohio Wesleyan’s future.

Clinton proposed a “New College Compact” plan, a guaranteed debt-free college experience influenced by the platform of former Democratic nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Va).

Not only is this beneficial for future students “to pursue their dreams,” but Clinton also plans to offer immediate relief to current student debt, which nationally exceeds $1 trillion, according to “The New College Compact” briefing on Clinton’s website.

For public university students, the plan assures a future where students will not have the need to take out loans to fund their education. This includes free tuition and fees at four-year schools for students coming from families who earn up to $125,000, as well as free tuition for anyone, at all income levels, for community colleges.

As for private school students, interest rates in student loans will be significantly lowered so “the government no longer profits from college students,” the plan said.

The cost of this program is estimated at $500 billion over 10 years, paid by “those at the top” by closing tax loopholes and expenditures, said the plan.

What does this mean for private schools?

A study conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that enrollment at private colleges would drop by an estimate of 11 percent.

With the enrollment dropping from 1,717 to 1,650 students since the 2013-14 school year, OWU has made great strides to improve enrollment and retention of students. In February 2016, OWU’s Board of Trustees passed the resolution to support the enrollment growing to 2,020 students by 2020.

But if the “New College Compact” plan passes, enrollment could drop by 117 to 250 students.

“There isn’t any doubt in my mind that if we’re going to drop another 11 percent, it would mean wholesale, big changes at the university,” said Susan Dileno, the vice president of enrollment. “There’s no other place to build revenue, since you’re not getting tuition revenue and the only thing you can do is cut.”

This would mean cutting programs, selling physical assets as well as letting go of staff and faculty.

“I don’t know if there would be any other way to address it,” Dileno said. “It would be pretty drastic.”

For public schools, the opposite would happen.

“Given the lack of analogous cases and the lack of legislative and regulatory specificity in the Clinton proposal, our best informed guess is that the overall impact would be a 9-22 percent increase in enrollment at public colleges and universities,” according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.


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