You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it, And indeed you did. I thought that you would rue it; I doubted you'd do it. But now I must admit it That succeed you did.
lyrics from My Fair Lady
Hillary Clinton announced this week that she favors a tuition-free college education at in-state public colleges for all families with annual incomes up to $125,000. As the New York Times correctly noted, by taking that step, Hillary "largely embraced" Bernie Sanders's core position about a free college education at public institutions for all Americans.
God bless Bernie Sanders! As the Democratic primary season ground on, attacks by Hillary's supporters became more and more vicious. Froma Harrup insinuated he was a racist, Barney Frank accused him of McCarthyism, and a New York Times reporter suggested he was a sexist. I think someone in the Clinton camp would have accused him of antisemitism were it not for the fact that he is Jewish.
All shameful poppycock. But doughty Bernie went the distance, and the Democratic Party has essentially adopted one of his core campaign issues.
What does this mean?
If Clinton is elected President, which seems likely, Congress will be forced to grapple with real reform for the federal student-loan program. Clinton crossed the Rubicon when she endorsed Bernie's free-college tuition proposal. There is no going back. And by calling for a 3-month moratorium on student-loan payments to allow college borrowers to refinance their college loans, Clinton has forced the Democratic Party and the American public to face the fact that the student loan program is a train wreck.
As Winston Churchill said after the battle for Egypt, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
A calamity has descended on American higher education. In the coming years, the for-profit sector will collapse,dozens of small liberal arts colleges will close, and millions of Americans will be forced into 20-and 25-year repayment plans. The student-loan program as we now know it will unravel.
It's going to be ugly, but at least Hillary's two recent pronouncements about higher education finance are an acknowledgement that we have to embrace radical change. And we can thank Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for pushing America's most important domestic policy issue to the front and center of American politics.
And let us not forget what I have been arguing for 20 years: There is no way out of this morass without allowing millions of student borrowers to shed their student loans in bankruptcy.
Stephanie Saul and Matt Flegenheimer. Hillary Clinton Embraces Ideas From Bernie Sanders's College Tuition Plan. New York Times, July 6, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/us/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-education.html?_r=0
Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip. Clinton to propose 3-month hiatus for repayment of student loans. Washington Post, July 5, 2016. Accessible at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/07/05/clinton-to-propose-3-month-hiatus-for-repayment-of-student-loans/?hpid=hp_special-topic-chain_clinton-loans-11pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory