Hillary Clinton Wants Poor Students to 'Work' for Tuition—Though Her Dad Paid Hers

Her plan differs from Bernie Sanders' tuition-free college plan.

Photo Credit: JStone/

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton threw down the gauntlet on rival candidate Bernie Sanders's tuition-free college plan, implying that it was wrong to pay for a student's tuition unless they did some sort of side job in addition to their studies, which her plan requires:

"I am not going to give free college to wealthy kids," she said. "I'm not going to give free college to kids who don't work some hours to try to put their own effort into their education.

Clinton's view highlights the main difference between the two candidates: Sanders views college as a right that cannot be denied or tied to a student's income or ability to work a job alongside their studies. To Clinton, it's a commodity, that the government can make cheaper under certain circumstances. Her work requirement would mostly impact poor students, whose parents could not simply offer up the support needed to pay tuition.

Except that Clinton was not required to complete a work requirement to have her tuition and room and board paid for. Here's how she explained how she attended Wellesly College, in a speech she gave in 2007:

Back when I went to college, my father told me, 'Here's the deal. Got enough money for your tuition and board, but anything beyond that, like buying books, you pay for yourself.' And I had worked summers and holidays since I was 13, so I was fine with that.

Clinton's plan would make US higher education uncompetitive with our European and Asian rivals, many of which fully subsidize school for their students and do not have a work requirement that distracts students from their studies. It also is a much more conservative plan than that followed by much of the United States for most of the 20th century, where states fully subsidized public colleges. But Clinton's self-righteous tone about not giving free college to kids who “don't work some hours” seems to be somewhat undermined by the fact her father paid for her college.


Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.