Published in The New Hampshire, Sept. 22, 2015
Hillary Clinton put hard numbers behind her college affordability plans on Friday morning at UNH.
The round table event drew hundreds of students and community members keen on exploring Clinton’s prospective policies as the campaign trails get fiery.
At the center of the event was Clinton’s “New College Compact” plan, which more than 24,000 students at New Hampshire public colleges and universities would benefit from, according to Clinton. The plan, focused on lowering tuition costs and reducing the burden of student loans, would also make community college free.
“Your debt will last only for a fixed period of time rather than hanging over your head forever,” Clinton said of the plan’s emphasis on loans. Loans would not exceed 10 percent of one’s income, and the plan would change the way interest rates are done.
Students with national service would be guaranteed an education free of debt, and federal Pell Grants could be applied to living expenses.
“We’ve got to figure out and work every single day to get incomes rising again,” Clinton said. “One of the single biggest ways is making college affordable and available to everyone.”
The crowd applauded often during Clinton’s remarks regarding the universality of education, and laughed when she joked about the complicated nature of FAFSA.
“If you do work hard, you can get ahead,” Clinton said. “I want every parent to know your child can get a degree. And you can get one yourself. There is no limit on age.”
Clinton emphasized how stifling debt can change the course of one’s life.
“I talk with young people who tell me they can’t move out of their parents’ basement,” she said. “They can’t start that dream business, they can’t get married. They don’t have the money to get on with their lives.”
Clinton noted Americans owe $1.2 trillion in student loans, with New Hampshire students racking up some of the highest debt in the nation.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan officially endorsed Clinton at the event, referring to her as “my friend Hillary” and “the right person to lead our country.”
“Hillary has been spending a lot of time in the Granite State this year combatting the heroin epidemic and college affordability,” Hassan said. Hassan called Clinton the only candidate with comprehensive plans.
Hassan’s endorsement came just days after both Congresswoman Annie Kuster and well-known blogger Dean Barker formally endorsed Clinton in the Concord Monitor.
Many call the endorsement primary the “invisible primary.” As of Sept. 17, Clinton’s competitor Bernie Sanders had not received any endorsements from Washington, D.C.
Clinton also touched upon the ravaging heroin epidemic in New Hampshire, mentioning a woman who approached her before the event thanking her for her efforts, as she had lost a son to addiction.
“Everywhere I’ve gone in the state I’ve heard about the struggles and the heartbreak associated with addiction,” Clinton said.
While Clinton addressed several hefty issues, some attendees were left empty-handed.
Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, a junior at UNH, held a sign during the event that read, “I’m ready for Hillary to say no KXL,” referring to the Keystone pipeline.
“She didn’t talk enough about climate change, for a supposed environmental candidate,” Sinclair-Wingate said. “We had our hands raised the whole time but no one called on us.”
UNH senior Molly Biron attended the event with a two-pronged perspective. As a member of the Peace and Justice League, Biron was helping bring Bernie Sanders to the university on Sunday.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Biron said of Clinton. “I saw her in Portsmouth and didn’t feel she was very genuine, I felt she was like a broken record. Today was refreshing.”
Biron says she is “keeping her options open” in terms of choosing which candidate to support.