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Is Newly Minted Candidate Hillary Clinton Good for Higher Ed?

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

With the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign announcement on Sunday, it’s time to once again ponder, “What does Hillary think about higher ed?”

Clinton graduated from Wellesley College and Yale Law School so you know she’s a stickler for quality.

But her sense of what higher ed needs these days isn’t quite so elitist.

In fact, like everyone, she’s concerned about rising costs for a good education, and a year ago, she sounded a lot more down to earth.

“I worry that we’re closing the doors to higher education in our own country,” Clinton reportedly said at a higher ed conference in suburban Dallas last year. “This great model that we’ve had that’s meant so much to so many is becoming further and further away from too many.”

So is $70,000 a year for New York University a bit much?

But to change the model may mean changing society more than changing our institutions.

Clinton said the United States “needs to reorient our social expectations and the signals we send” about the value associated with different kinds of degrees.

Note to Tiger Moms: We don’t all have to get to that Ivy League diploma.

At this point, the United States can’t afford to be snobs about education.

In her speech, Clinton said it was time to “redefine higher education,” so that non-bachelor’s degree students in technical programs weren’t given short shrift.

“Just because a job requires certain technical skills and not a bachelor’s degree” should not lead to a devaluing of those jobs or the relevant training, she said.

OK, but then maybe she should talk to her chummy double J.D./MBA investment banker friends who buy up companies, strip them down to the bone and outsource all those non-bachelor’s degree jobs.

The devaluing of those non-degree jobs helps make the stripped down companies profitable again. When that happens, the bankers sell of their investment to the highest bidder, make their cash and find another mature fat company to pick on.

We’ll see if a President Clinton would lead the charge against Wall Street on that societal pattern.

Junior college or something other than the research facility grade education was also a big part of Clinton’s speech last year ― especially for colleges looking to expand into international markets.

Instead of replicating the U.S. model in foreign countries, Clinton said schools looking abroad should be thinking differently.

Clinton said basic education and skills are what’s needed in many countries. She spoke of countries that have elementary schools, high schools and universities, but “no levels in between … nothing like technical schools or community colleges.”

I suppose that means tailoring your efforts to the locals. Especially if you’re thinking about being a Miami University in Havana.

But Clinton saved most of her ire for online education.

She said online education has potential, especially for people who might not be able to come to the United States. But she indicated she wasn’t a real fan, saying there is “no substitute for the kind of learning that takes place in a well-taught classroom.”

She said a “world class education” could be available online, but it “must have a system of accountability.”

“Technology is a tool, not a teacher,” Clinton said.

You can bet she probably feels even stronger about technology in her life — after her email scandal this year.

But not too strong.

She did, after all, announce her candidacy online via social media.

Hillary’s not a total Luddite.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( Like him at; Twitter @emilamok.

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