Sorry Hillary Clinton, Emojis Can’t Fix College Costs

If Hillary Clinton wants her plan to improve college affordability to be taken seriously perhaps she should go easy on the lame attempts at social media. Earlier this week Clinton took to Twitter to ask people to use emojis to describe their feelings about student debt. It went about as bad as you imagine.

The responses were harsh. Many wondered why Clinton was attempting to dumb down a very serious conversation, others mocked her hamfisted attempt to communicate with Millenials, and still others poked fun at her poor grammar (it should have been “fewer,” not “less). But perhaps one tweet sums it up best:

“You know what people who went to college can use?” tweeted back Louisa. “Words.”

To be fair, people had plenty of words to describe Clinton’s proposal, not all of them positive. Some of the criticism suggested she ignored the main problems and didn’t go far enough.

“So to say the Clinton Plan is sorely lacking is actually generous. It’s more of a huge step backwards,” Alan Collinge wrote for The Hill.

“Clinton’s plan addresses none of the problems that students and families are actually facing, no matter which type of college they attended,” added Ann Larson in Al Jazeera America.

But the more substantive critiques came from conservatives, who argued that throwing more money into the current system would make it more expensive, but more importantly, it would hamper innovation. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes:

The government has since the 1960s dumped truckloads of money on colleges and students, the result of which has been higher tuition: Schools pocket the subsidies and pass on the costs. A July report from the New York Federal Reserve found that every additional dollar in aid and subsidized loans led colleges to raise tuition as much as 65 cents.

And that’s the problem – colleges are expensive, not only because they somehow found themselves stuck in an amenities arms race to see who can have the nicest climbing wall, but because their business is labor and infrastructure intensive. More money will surely take the heat off of students (at least until they become taxpayers and are forced to pay off the new spending that way), but it also takes the pressure off of college administrators to compete based on price.

Unfortunately, college’s aren’t exactly price conscious right now. Simply put, they don’t have to be because graduates receive such a wage premium that the market for a college degree is booming. As former Secretary of Education William Bennett said, “Some of our colleges and universities charge what the market will bear . . . The heart of the matter is that colleges raise costs because they can.”

The simple fact is that Clinton’s plan, far from actually solving the cost conundrum, actually expands colleges’ ability to raise tuition prices. Insert frowny face emoji here.