After Presidential Debate Where Candidates Snub Higher Ed., Clinton Pitches Plan to Lower College Costs
Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders were in Durham, New Hampshire today discussing their shared belief that cost should not be a barrier for anyone who chooses to go to college, and student debt should not hold Americans back after they leave school.
Hillary Clinton highlighted a plan to confront the skyrocketing cost of college. Her plan would provide tuition free college at in-state public universities for students from families making up to $125,000, expanded loan forgiveness for graduates going into public service and breaks on interest payments for aspiring entrepreneurs. She also highlighted her campaign’s college calculator.
“But I have to say this: none of this will happen if you all don’t turn out and vote. None of it,” Mrs. Clinton told the audience.
Sen. Sanders praised Clinton’s plan, adding, “What this proposal, Secretary Clinton’s proposal, tells us is that if you are a low-income family, a working class family, if your kid studies hard and does well, yes. Regardless of the income of your family, your kid will be able to make it into college. That is a big deal.”
“Thank you. Thank you all so much. It is great being here on the stage at UNH with my friend Bernie Sanders, one of the most passionate champions for equality and justice that I have ever seen and someone who I am looking forward to working with to get [cheers] the kind of agenda through our Congress that will begin to make our country stronger by providing the kind of support that working families and middle class families so richly deserve.
Bernie’s campaign energized so many young people, some of you in this crowd. And there is no group of Americans who have more at stake in this election than young Americans because so much of what will happen will affect your lives, your jobs, the kind of country we are, the kind of future we want to build together.
I’m proud of the primary campaign that Bernie and I ran. We ran a campaign about issues, not insults. And when it was over, we began to work together to try to figure out how we could take the issues we agreed on and come together knowing we are stronger together to come up with specific policies in education, in health and so much else. Thank you, Bernie. Thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your support in this campaign.
Now, we’re going to need some help in Washington. And I hope New Hampshire will send your now Governor Maggie Hassan to Washington as your senator. And I sure hope you will send Carol Shea Porter back to Washington.
Isn’t this one of the strangest elections you’ve ever seen? I – I really sometimes don’t know what to make of it. Standing on that debate stage the other night, I was especially thinking about that. And, look, I have been very clear about what I want to do if I’m fortunate enough to be elected president. And Americans increasingly are zeroing in on the fact that we’re not only electing a president, we’re electing a commander-in-chief. We’re looking to see who can protect our country and provide steady and strong leadership around the world.
I was very honored today to earn the endorsement of John Warner, a retired Republican senator, World War II veteran, former – former secretary of the Navy who served under two Republican presidents. I served with him on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I have the deepest respect for his patriotism. And it’s a great honor. He’s never endorsed a Democrat for president before. And I’m also very grateful that a number of Republicans and Independents here in New Hampshire have announced their support for this campaign. In fact, it is really an extraordinary honor that 150 Republicans here in New Hampshire are supporting this campaign because they understand how high the stakes are.
The next – the next 40 days will determine the next 40 years. So I’m going to close my campaign the way I started my public service and my career: fighting for kids and families. That’s been the cause of my life. And it will be the mission of my presidency. And when you go to vote in November or if you vote early, it’s not just my name on the ballot. Every issue you care about, think about it because, in effect, it’s on the ballot, too. It’s whether or not we continue to fight climate change or we give in to denial. This is a big deal. I never thought when I gave my acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention that I would have to put in the following sentence, ‘I believe in science.’ Climate change is real. It’s serious. And we have to be united and committed in addressing it. I never thought I’d hear someone running for president, my opponent, who says he wants to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality and turn the clock back on LGBT Americans, overturn a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions and reverse that fundamental right and so much more.
So there’s a lot at stake. And that’s why some of the analysts are saying more Americans will vote in this election than ever before. We had more people watching that debate than any presidential debate before. And that’s why we have to focus on what we want to do because I want to make a difference in your lives.
And one of the biggest issues that I heard about throughout the campaign that I hear about from every corner of our country is how much an education costs. Bernie is absolutely right. I remember when I went to college, my dad, who was a small business man – he had saved up money, but I had to work. I had to work through college, work during the school year, work during summers, but that was okay. We were able to put it together. It wasn’t so much that it endangered me or my family’s financial future.
And then I decided to go to law school, and my dad said, ‘Well, I can’t help you. That – we’re done. We can’t help you.’ So I kept working. I got a small scholarship, but then I took out loans. And I paid those loans back. But I was lucky because I signed up for a program that gave me the opportunity to pay my loans back as a percentage of my income, not a fixed interest rate. That’s why I could go to work for the Children’s Defense Fund. I think I made $14,000 a year, as I recall. I could never have done that if I had had the kind of interest rates that so many young people now are facing.
It’s absolutely wrong, and it has undermined the fundamental right to pursue your dreams, to have that education, to get those opportunities that you so rightly deserve.
Now, New Hampshire has the highest proportion of students with debt in the country and the second-highest average debt per student. As a student I met here in New Hampshire said, going to college should be hard, but paying for college shouldn’t be so hard that it prevents you from getting your education.
Indeed, here in New Hampshire, we’ve got so many young people graduating with debt who aren’t able to get started in their careers, aren’t able to do the jobs like I could do, because they have to get a job that pays as much as possible to begin paying their debt down. So we should, and we will, make public colleges tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 a year.
And if you already have student debt, like so many students have here in New Hampshire, we will help you refinance it. It is absolutely outrageous that you cannot refinance student debt, and it is even worse that you’re being charged interest rates that are so much higher than anything that anybody else is paying to buy a house, to buy a car, to borrow money for a business. I don’t know how we got to where we are, but we are going to fix it. This is wrong. It’s wrong for students, it’s wrong for families, and it’s wrong for our country.
I also have met a lot of young people who want to start a business. They want to be entrepreneurs. It’s the classic American story; start that business in the garage or the basement; get going. But they can’t get credit because they have student debt. Nobody will help them out, no matter how good the idea is. So we’re going to put a moratorium, so you don’t have to pay your student debt back for a couple of years while you try to get your business started, and you get the chance to get the credit you need.
We are also – we are also going to provide loan forgiveness for people willing to go into public service or national service. And in Florida on Friday I’ll give a speech about why that is so important.
Now, when you add it up, our plan will help millions of people save thousands of dollars. Our campaign has built a tool to help you see how our college plan will actually help you, not in general, but really specifically you, the situation you’re in. To check it out, go to hillaryclinton.com/calculator.
Now, we have an example right here, and this presentation is what you can see when you go to our website. You can say, ‘I have student debt,’ you can say, ‘I am planning for college,’ you can put in what your annual household income is, how much you will save, and we are trying to make it as specific as possible because I don’t want anybody to miss out on what this plan can do for you. You can choose whether you have student debt.
I met a young woman just yesterday in North Carolina who said, ‘Nobody really explained to me and my family what I was getting into.’ I hear that so much. You know, these financial aid forms, one is called FAFSA, it takes forever to fill out, and at the end of it you really don’t know what it means? Well, we’re going to be really explicit. You know, we do have technology in America. And we ought to use it more to help people understand what they’re getting into and to provide alternatives so that they don’t make the wrong decisions for themselves.
So, please, use this, you know? You will save $60,640 if you’re in one of these categories. But there is a way to understand the choices you have to make for everybody. So I hope you will go to hillaryclinton.com/calculator.
But I have to say this: none of this will happen if you all don’t turn out and vote. None of it. You know, I see all the signs saying, ‘I will vote.’ There is also a website. Please go to iwillvote.com to make sure you’re registered. All the information is there. You put in your name, you put in your address, and through the miracle of technology you can find out if you’re registered, or maybe because you moved you were purged from the records and you have to register again. New Hampshire makes it easy. You can have same-day registration.
So both Bernie and I are excited about what we can do together. I am really looking forward to working with him and other strong Democrats and Republicans who want to help solve problems again in America. Bringing people together is what I’m going to spend a lot of my time doing as your president. And if you’ve had a chance to see or meet my running mate, Tim Kaine, you know how hard he’ll work to get things done and make it a high priority to produce results.
So we’re going to move now to the panel, and I’m very pleased to have Mary Jo Brown moderating, along with Doug Martin, who you heard from earlier. I know they have collected up questions from the crowd. But I will end by saying that I’m excited about what we can do to make college affordable, and especially as Bernie rightly said, open the doors to families and young people who have been left out. We also want to make Pell grants once again available year-round, and we want to make sure that we have – specific help for certain groups of students.
I’ll end with this story. I taught at the University of Arkansas Law School some years ago, and I met a lot of students, not only in the law school but students on campus. I’d go and eat with them and go to events with them, and I met a lot of students who scraped together the tuition money, but then something happened. You know, maybe they were already parents and their childcare fell apart. Maybe they had to drive to and from school; they lived out in the country and their old car finally broke down and there was no public transportation. Or maybe they had a health emergency. And they would come and they would say to me, ‘What can I do? Where can I get the $300 to fix the car? Where can I find childcare? How can I pay the doctor’s bills?’
And I realized that we’ve got to take care of tuition, making sure that you can go and be able to start and finish school. We’ve got to make sure costs and expenses, Pell grants and other ways of helping. But we also have to fill the gaps that exist for a lot of students. So I helped to start something called the Arkansas Single-Parent Scholarship Fund, because the people who had the most unexpected expenses were young parents, mostly, but not always, single moms, young, divorced, pretty much on their own, trying to improve their lives and prospects.
And we started a fund to help fill those gaps, and, you know, we did it over so many years now, about 35 years, and we’ve helped thousands of people, so they didn’t have to drop out. They didn’t have to cut back. That’s what I want for our country again, where we’re helping each other, where we’re reaching out and giving everybody a chance, and, yes, sometimes a second or third chance, to make the most of their lives, to pursue their dreams. I think the American dream is big enough for everybody, and education is absolutely essential to it.
So please make sure you come out and vote in this election. Thank you, all.”
“So is everybody here ready to transform America? You’ve come to the right place. Thanks very much for being here. I want to thank Secretary Clinton for inviting me to join her here in the great state of New Hampshire. And today I am asking all of you to think big, not small. To understand that here in the United States we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, and if we are prepared to stand together and not allow people to divide us up, if we are prepared to stand up to powerful and wealthy and greedy special interests, there is night that we cannot accomplish, no goal that we cannot achieve, and that includes making fundamental changes in the way we fund higher education in our country.
Now, here is a simple truth – 40 or 50 years ago in New Hampshire and Vermont, virtually anyplace in America, you went out and you got a high school degree, the odds are that you can get decent-paying jobs and make it into the middle class. That was the world 40 or 50 years ago. But that is not the world today. The world has changed, the global economy has changed, technology has changed, and education has changed. Today, in a highly competitive global economy, if we are going to have as a people the kind of standard of living that the people of the United States deserve, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the entire world.
But let me be very honest with you and tell you that, sadly, that is not the case today. Our nation used to lead the world in the percentage of young Americans with college degrees. We were number one. Today we are number 15, and that is not acceptable. And that is why Secretary Clinton and I understand that in today’s world, when we talk about public education, it’s no longer good enough to talk about the first grade through high school. That was good. That was wonderful 30 or 40 years ago. It is not enough today. And today, when we talk about public education, it must mean making public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle class and working families of this country.
Now, during the campaign, the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton had some very strong proposals. I had a different approach. But we came together after the campaign and reached an agreement that says that every family in this country earning $125,000 or less – that is 83 percent of our population – should be able to send their kids to public colleges and universities tuition-free.
And make no mistake about it: This is revolutionary proposal for the future of our country with wide-reaching implications. It means that, first, students will not be leaving college with outrageous levels of student debt. I went all over this country during the campaign, and I talked to too many young people, and people who were not so young, who were paying off student debts of 30-, 50-, $100,000, and in some cases it was taking them decades to pay off those debts. I want young people to leave school excited about the future, the new businesses they’ll open up, getting married, having kids, buying a house, not being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.
And secondly, making public colleges and universities tuition-free does something even more profound than just reducing student debt. In my state of Vermont, here in New Hampshire, and throughout this country, there are millions of low-income and working class families with kids who don’t know anybody who graduated college. Their parents didn’t graduate college. My parents never went to college. And they are thinking to themselves, there is no way in God’s Earth that they are ever going to make it through college and into the middle class. What this proposal, Secretary Clinton’s proposal, tells us is that if you are a low-income family, a working class family, if your kid studies hard and does well, yes. Regardless of the income of your family, your kid will be able to make it into college. That is a big deal.
Today hundreds of thousands of bright and qualified young people do not get a higher education for one reason and one reason alone: Their family lacks the income. That is unfair to those families. It is unfair to the future of this country. How many great scientists and engineers and teachers and police officers are out there who will never get a chance to do what they could do because of lack of income of their families? Secretary Clinton and I are going to change that. If you have the ability, you will be able to get a college education.
And while we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle class and working families of this country, we are also mindful that there are millions of people out there who have already incurred deep debt, and we intend to change that and lower those student debts as well. It makes no sense to us that when you can go get an automobile loan, refinance your home for 2, 3, 4 percent, that there are millions of people stuck with interest rates on their student debt at 6, 7, 8 percent. People should be able to refinance those debts at the lowest interest rates they can find.
Now, some people will say – our critics will say – well, it’s a good idea, making public colleges and universities tuition free. But it’s expensive, costs a lot of money. And the truth is, it is an expensive proposal. But I will tell you what is even more expensive, and that is doing nothing. We must invest in our young people and the future of this country. And I will tell you something else, that at a time when we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, it is absorb, it is disgraceful, for Donald Trump and his friends to be talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top 1 percent.
I think that the overwhelming majority of the American people understand that it is far more important to invest in the future of our country than to give Donald Trump and his family, Donald Trump’s family, a $4 trillion tax break if Trump were to repeal the estate tax. The Walton family, wealthiest family in America, would get a $50 billion tax break. So when you have Republicans telling us that it is okay to give tens and tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest people in this country, do not tell me that we cannot afford to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.
All of you know that New Hampshire is a battleground state. All of you know that this is a very tight election. And in fact, New Hampshire could decide the outcome. So I am asking you here today not only to vote for Secretary Clinton, but to work hard to get your uncles and your aunts, to get your friends, to vote. If anybody tells you that this election is not important, you ask them why the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and other billionaires, why they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect their candidates. This election is enormously important for the future of our country. It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.
And with that, let me introduce the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton!”
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