What would debt-free college mean for university marketers?

Nov 07, 2016

In June of this year, shortly after Bernie Sanders conceded the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton released a revised plan blending Sanders’ plan with her own and proposing to make college debt-free for millions of Americans. The top two bullet points of the current plan include: 1) all students will have the option to graduate from an in-state public college or university without taking on student debt, 2) all community colleges will offer free tuition.

So what would this mean for university marketers—public, private and community?

If implemented, the policy may be a game-changer for all universities and colleges—but it will have different impacts on the different categories. The following table breaks down some of those predicted effects:*


*Many of these predicted effects are based on a study conducted by the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Overall, the debt-free college plan would create unprecedented changes in the higher education category. While the debt-free plan may take years to implement (Congress will have to approve the plan before it is put into effect), colleges and universities would need to develop detailed action plans and determine how best to expand, downsize or convert to online capacity.

Start thinking, university marketers. Depending on tomorrow’s results, you may need as much time as you can get.

—Elizabeth Leugers, Marketing Manager, Agency Development