Bernie Sanders' effort to push the Democrat party -- and Hillary Clinton -- to the left worked when the $15 minimum wage was included in the party's platform, but didn't when the platform committee refused to reject the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) as Sanders demanded. Clinton supported TTP as Secretary of State but opposes it as a candidate for The White House.
But on student loans, they split their differences.
Sanders made free in-state tuition at public colleges a mainstay of his campaign from the beginning, which Clinton dismissed as being unaffordable. After the two campaigns huddled, Clinton unveiled a plan on July 6 to make in-state public colleges and universities free for students whose families make less than $125,000 per year by 2020. Clinton's plan falls short of free, yet won Sanders' praise.
"I want to take this opportunity to applaud Secretary Clinton for the very bold initiative she has just brought forth for the financing of higher education," Sanders said. "This proposal combines some of the strongest ideas she fought for during the campaign with some of the principles that I fought for. The final product is a result of the work of both campaigns."Clinton has compromised as well, acknowledging that borrowed money has become part of the problem in higher ed, with unsustainable student loans becoming an increasingly dodgy solution.
"American families are drowning in debt caused by ever-rising college costs," Clinton said in statement, "and it is imperative that the next president put forward a bold plan to make debt-free college available to all. My New College Compact will do just that."
Clinton has modified her New College Compact plan, first unveiled in August 2015 as a response to the unexpected threat posed by Sanders' outlier candidacy. The amended plan spells out how free public school tuition would gradually be made more widely available. Students with family incomes of $85,000 or less would be covered by 2018. This income cap would increase by $10,000 annually from until 2021, when in-state schools would be free to all families with incomes under $125,000.
Clinton has also followed Sanders' lead by supporting the ability to refinance federal student loans.
What didn't make the cut was Sanders call to "Stop the Federal Government from Making a Profit on Student Loans," to the tune of over $110 billion in the next decade according to his campaign's website. Sanders also wanted to cut student loan interest rates to 2.37% from 3.76% in 2016-2017. Sanders' demand that public colleges and universities meet 100% of the financial need of the lowest-income students was a non-starter as was the "imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators" to pay for Sanders initiatives, which his campaign priced at $75 billion a year. From here, Clinton is building her own higher ed agenda.