Many Americans see Hillary Clinton’s plan as an appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who promised tuition-free college if elected. Although many are excited about the plan’s promise to offer tuition-free higher education, others are concerned about how the plan will be implemented — or that it won’t accomplish enough.
Free tuition is only one of the many parts of the plan, but it is definitely the most exciting for Georgians struggling to pay the high cost of tuition ($11,624 for in-state tuition at UGA) in a state where the median per capita income is just over $25,000 and 18.3 percent of residents live in poverty.
With the cutbacks to the HOPE scholarship and the skyrocketing cost of higher education, a free tuition plan would make college accessible to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go continue their education after high school.
According to Clinton’s plan, students with household incomes of $85,000 or less would get to attend in-state, public four-year colleges and universities without tuition from the beginning of Clinton’s presidency. By 2021, students with household incomes up to $125,000 would also receive free tuition at in-state, public four-year colleges and universities.
Although free tuition would clearly allow some of the Georgians who most need it to attend college, there is a big asterisk on Clinton’s plan:
Everyone will do their part. States will have to step up and invest in higher education, and colleges and universities will be held accountable for the success of their students and for controlling tuition costs.
Evidently, Clinton is expecting that states will subsidize higher education so that resident students will be able to go to college for free.
“Free Tuition” would then be a program that states are offered federal subsidies to implement, like expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But each state would also be able to turn down the subsidies and not participate in the program, in the same way that some conservative-led states opted out of expanding Medicaid.
Since Georgia is one of the states that opted out of receiving federal subsidies to expand Medicaid and has been steadily increasing college costs since the early 2000s, one might doubt that Georgia would hop on board with state-subsidized free college.
So what would Clinton’s plan mean for Georgians? Nothing, unless Georgia bought in.