The Presidential Candidates’ Plans For College Tuition

By Samantha Caruso
For Unwind magazine

Former Democratic Presidential contender Bernie Sanders made headlines for his unorthodox college tuition plan, which guaranteed free tuition at any public college or university. His proposal sparked debate among news analysts, politicians and the general public on its feasibility. The plan even brought the issue of college tuition payment forward as a key topic on the 2016 campaign trail. Now, with the national election less than one month away and Sanders off of the ticket, the nation’s eyes turn to the nominees’ plans for the issue of college tuition.


Republican nominee Donald Trump has no formal plan regarding college tuition, but his views on the matter can be deduced from various sources.

donald_trump_august_2015Trump told the organization Inside Higher Ed that “[community colleges] are damn near free now” and, thus, will reject President Obama’s proposal for free community college. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators reported that Trump will “call on colleges and universities, particularly those with large endowments, to spend more on their students in an effort to lower the cost of college.”

Differing from her opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton established a plan for college tuition payment entitled “The New College Compact.” It guarantees students free college tuition at any in-state four-year public college or university “from the beginning” for families making $85,000 or less in annual income.hillary_clinton_24266530879

Additionally, by the year 2021, tuition for in-state four-year public colleges will be free for families that make $125,000 or less annually. According to CNN, “[Clinton’s plan] would cover 80% of families.”

James Hamner, Associate Professor of and Director of Graduate Studies for Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, does not think that the idea of free tuition is plausible in the near future.

“I do not think there is enough support from Republicans or Democrats, and getting states and governors involved is another hurdle,” he said. “Everybody is on board with cheaper, but free is a big step.”

It’s no secret that Clinton’s and Sander’s college tuition plans look similar. CNN confirmed that Clinton and Sanders worked together to develop “The New College Compact.”

“[Clinton’s plan] combines some of the strongest ideas which she brought forth during the campaign with some of the principles I brought forth,” Sanders said at a news conference in Washington D.C.

While Clinton doesn’t demand free tuition for all students to any public college as Sanders did, she instead calls for free tuition for students in certain income brackets.

Third party candidates also proposed plans to address college tuition. For example, Green Party candidate Jill Stein would “make higher education free,” Fox Business says.


Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, believes that guaranteed federal student loans led to the rapidly increasing college tuition prices that can be seen today. If elected, Johnson has stated his plan to refinance interest rate
s on student loans.

It is clear that Senator Sanders’ plan for college tuition received immense media attention. His bold proposal was the first of its kind and was covered by many news organizations, both liberal and conservative. Hamner believes that the extensive media coverage of Sanders’ plan “made a difference in pushing the issue forward.”

Comparatively, neither Clinton’s nor Trump’s plans have gotten the same attention. Both candidates’ plans for college tuition have been overshadowed by more prominent issues, such as national security, taxation and immigration.


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