BY HANK REICHMAN
Recently the New York Times published an article entitled “Hillary Clinton’s College Plan Appeals to the Left, but Educators Have Doubts.” The thrust of the article was that while Clinton’s proposal to let students with families earning less than $125,000 a year attend public universities free has considerable appeal (and not just to “the Left”), some “educators” question its feasibility and are concerned about its potential impact on private institutions, especially smaller and more fiscally vulnerable ones.
The criticism is fair enough, but my point here is that it isn’t coming from “educators.” Here are the people the article cites as questioning the plan: Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, a small Catholic institution; Beth Akers, an education policy specialist at the Brookings Institution; and F. King Alexander, the president of Louisiana State University, which is currently on the AAUP censure list. Not a single one of these individuals is actually involved on a regular basis in educating anyone. To be sure, McGuire is known as a thoughtful administrator, having won the AAUP”s Alexander Meiklejohn Award in 2010. But she doesn’t, to my knowledge, teach, nor does Alexander, who has been a university administrator, it seems, since the dawn of time. The others are all, of course, not even in education at all; they are policy wonks and lobbyists.
The Clinton plan, which I think marks a major step forward, may have its flaws and undoubtedly will undergo much scrutiny and likely amendment if it is to become law. But in discussing the plan perhaps the Times and others might condescend to actually ask real “educators” what they think before claiming to report their “doubts.” Wasn’t there a single representative of a faculty union or of a faculty senate available? Wasn’t there a teaching scholar of education who has studied, written, and actually taught students about these issues willing to speak? I can think of three off the top of my head: Sara Goldrick-Rab, Bob Samuels, and Christopher Newfield have recently published important books on this issue. And, guess what, they actually are educators too, with real students!