One of the policy positions that Bernie Sanders successfully pushed Hillary Clinton to embrace was his plan for free college tuition. However that plan has a potential downside: It could wipe out hundreds of small, private colleges around the country. Politico reports:
Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, is a Clinton supporter who’s now concerned about her school’s survival.
McGuire runs a private women’s college and complained that Clinton’s revised college affordability plan — eliminating public college tuition for families making up to $125,000 — puts small institutions like hers “gravely at risk.” …
There are about 1,600 private colleges across the U.S., and they enroll about one in five college students. Private colleges compete directly with public colleges for students and that competition would get a lot harder if public schools are suddenly free…
Elite private colleges such as Ivy League schools aren’t at risk. But some other types of private colleges — including women’s colleges, religiously affiliated institutions, and historically black colleges and universities — rely heavily on tuition. If Congress were to enact the free public college proposal, a sudden, steep drop in enrollment could put private schools like that out of business, McGuire said. And a wounded private college sector could mean fewer choices.
The private college presidents Politico spoke to are not necessarily against the idea of government involvement in student tuition. No doubt many, like McGuire, are Clinton supporters. What they want is some leeway to make any tuition grant applicable to private colleges as well as public ones.
Where the private colleges run into trouble is that they tend to have much higher tuition rates than public schools. Politico notes the average public school tuition (in-state) was just shy of $10,000 a year while private school tuition averages above $30,000 per year. Politically, that difference could make it more difficult for private colleges to make a claim on public money.
The only upside at the moment is that Clinton’s plan is unlikely to happen anytime soon. A massive outlay of money for college tuition necessarily involves congress and, at least for the moment, Republicans are in control. The fact that the GOP held congress stands between these private colleges and potential calamity must be galling to the left-leaning staff and administrators at these institutions.