Clinton’s College Plan Ignores the Real Problem

Hillary Clinton is desperate to collect the votes of Millennials. She’s successfully bribed Sanders’ to campaign to woo his younger supporters, she’s mobilized popular entertainment figures, and she’s building a massive campus-based organization that will work in conjunction with other college mobilization efforts. “It is basically going to be non-stop once schools are in session,” Clinton’s Millennial director, Sarah Audelo, told The Atlantic.

Clinton’s all out attempt to woo younger voters make sense. A recent poll showed that in a three-way race among Clinton, Donald Trump, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former secretary of state garners just 34 percent support. One would expect that number to be even lower if Green Party candidate Jill Stein was included in the polling.

“We’ve come up from invisible in the polls to as high as 6% and even 7% so this is a message that’s propagating itself,” Stein told The Guardian. “The Green party’s not so different from the rest of the American public, that doesn’t like Hillary Clinton and doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton. The polls are pretty explicit about that.”

And although 34% sounds strong, at least relative to the numbers for the other candidates, it’s about half of the two-thirds of Millennials that carried Obama to victory in 2008. So what’s the problem? Democratic pollster Andrew Baumann ventured a guess to The Atlantic.

On issues from student debt to climate, he said, “They want to vote for somebody who has positive positions that they think will make America better, and at least before the convention they weren’t seeing that from Hillary Clinton.” In the growing ranks of Millennial voters, Clinton isn’t running so much against Trump as against the lingering doubts about her passions and priorities.

In other words, it’s not that Clinton’s message isn’t already ubiquitous, especially among young adults, it’s that her message isn’t resonating to a generation for whom the American Dream looks bleak.

That presents a tremendous opportunity for Republicans to do what Hillary Clinton and Democrats are not – craft policies that actually address the concerns of young voters. The most obvious gap in Hillary Clinton’s platform is in higher education. Sure, Clinton has thrown together a terrible mess of a student debt plan, one that creates new subsidies for student debtors and promisees free, but really “free,” public college educations for families making up to $125,000.

There are myriad reasons why that’s a terrible idea. It’s unpredictably expensive, it incentives administrative waste, it rewards campus bureaucrats, it would hurt quality, it would stop the progress of alternative forms of education, and it would disrupt the private college network. But most importantly, it completely ignores the fundamental problem underlying the college system: Tuition is soaring at the exact same time that educational outcomes are plummeting. Students are paying more, but not learning more (and in some cases they’re learning much less). In what world does it make sense to reward that type of system with an unlimited influx of taxpayer money?

As professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes for USA Today:

The problem is that neither students nor society are getting their money’s worth.

Politicians sell education as a solution to economic inequality because it has two features that politicians love: It sounds good, and people won’t discover that it isn’t true until much later. Plus, when you push spending on education, you can always count on support from educators, who have a lot of influence in the media.

Perhaps it would still be worth it if college improved students’ minds, but the evidence for that is kind of thin. Undergraduates at major universities spend more time being taught by low-paid adjuncts, who teach 76% of classes. (Universities are always saving money by replacing full-time faculty with adjuncts, but somehow that never brings down tuition. And nobody ever heard of an “adjunct administrator,” for some reason.)

The students aren’t working all that hard, either. The average college student spends just 2.76 hours a day on schoolwork, for a total of 19.3 hours a week. By contrast, they spend 31 hours a week on socializing and recreation.

Of course, as college students we don’t like to hear that. There are plenty of us who are working plenty hard, thank you very much. But to focus on our individual experiences misses the point: For plenty of other students colleges are performing a disservice. Namely, they’re failing to train the next generation of workers for next generation jobs. After all, there is a reason why there were 5.78 million unfilled job openings in April, which matched a historic high. That reason is because employers can’t find skilled workers for the jobs they need.

That’s an unacceptable statistic and one that Hillary Clinton’s student loan plan utterly fails to address. Republicans should jump at the chance to offer some substance to young adults who have been begging for it.