Choosing a state university over a private college could become more appealing, for many students, if Hillary Clinton becomes president.
Low- and middle-income students would pay nothing for tuition at in-state public colleges under a new part of her free college tuition plan. Any student whose family earns $85,000 or less would be eligible at first. The income level would go up by $10,000 each year until 2021, when anyone whose family makes $125,000 a year or less would go tuition-free.
What could this mean for your student? There is the possibility of free tuition. There is also the likelihood of fierce competition for spots at both public and private universities.
80% of all families would then be covered under her education plan, the Clinton campaign said. The wealthy would still have to pay for college, of course. As Clinton has previously said, she doesn’t want to pay for Donald Trump’s children to go to college.
Tuition at state schools is already much cheaper than what private colleges charge. Last year, the average tuition for in-state students at public colleges was $9,410, according to The College Board. At private colleges, it was $32,405.
Clinton’s argument is that, under her plan, many more families might be able to afford to send their children to college.
Experts predict that enrollment at public universities would swell to record levels, with students whose families previously couldn’t afford to send them competing for spots with students who would otherwise have gone to private universities or out-of-state schools, but now want to attend in-state public universities because of the price tag.
But there are only so many dorm rooms and classroom seats available at public universities!
What is likely to happen, according to educational experts, is what has already happened in some states like California, where top students crowd the public universities, competition for private universities is ferocious, and lower-achieving (and in many cases, lower-income) students are pushed down into two-year schools.
A closer look at California’s public university system provides even more insight into what that competition can look like. “The average GPA of six of our nine campuses is 4.0 and a near perfect SAT,” says Audrey Dow, senior vice-president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “That’s definitely not what we thought our public university would be—this hyper-elite institution that demands perfection.”
Some educators argue that a much more feasible and affordable approach to Clinton’s free college tuition plan is one that’s already been started in Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota. In those states, community college tuition is free. Many students then choose to enter the workforce with a two-year degree, and they also have the option to transfer to a four-year academic institution.
However, free college tuition at four-year public colleges could be a powerful means of expanding opportunity — and equipping an increasingly diverse America to compete in the global economy. The key for most families during this transition, if indeed it takes place, will be to focus on their student’s grades and test scores. It would seem very clear that the landscape in coming years will be more competitive than ever, and students need to present themselves as the ‘complete package’ as they apply to their target schools.
This will make ACT and SAT test preparation, to ensure that students have as many choices as possible, even more important than ever.