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Did the Idea of Free Public Higher Education Go Down With the Democrats?

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders elevated the issue of college affordability with campaign proposals to make public higher education free for the vast majority of American families, but those prospects have faded with the election of Donald Trump.

Trump policy adviser Sam Clovis made it clear during the campaign that the Republican would not support free public higher education, calling the idea “absurd” in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. And with congressional Republicans calling for the federal government to dial back its role in education, the chances of a federal-state partnership to lower the cost of college appear slim.

Proponents of debt-free college, nevertheless, remain convinced that the movement still has legs. They say underlying concerns about skyrocketing student debt and price barriers in higher education are as relevant as ever. And even without federal support, they say, there’s enough momentum at the state level to keep the movement alive.