Michelle Hackman’s premise that democratic candidates are “steering clear” of mentioning tuition-free college shows a lack of intellectual curiosity and the will to provide accurate information to the readers of the Wall Street Journal. She offers no relevant examples, omits supporting evidence, and includes very few counter arguments. Hackman studied political science at Yale and could easily perform more accurate research and reporting. There is simply no excuse for her irresponsible journalism. At best the article spreads misinformation, at worst it’s purposeful propaganda.

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What You Need to Know

FACT 1: Hackman offers no relevant examples, omits supporting evidence, and includes very few counter arguments.

  • An article from Inside Higher Ed just two months prior to Hackman’s article stated the exact opposite premise: “More candidates than ever are talking about free college” -Andrew Kreighbaum, Federal Policy Reporter for Inside Higher ED
  • Hackman states a common claim made by opposition that tuition-free college will disproportionately work to the advantage of the wealthy without providing any evidence, and without acknowledging plans like Bernie Sanders’s, which is designed to benefit 70% of those who make under $100k/year. The bottom line is that the U.S. can create a plan that works best for our needs and will benefit anyone who has the ability and desire to receive a higher education.
  • Hackman broadly references strategists saying that “fewer Americans see college as a preferred path in any case” without considering that, if a growing number of people don’t see college as a preferred path, it may very well have to do in large part to the cost of college; therefore, further supporting the need for tuition-free college.
  • There were only two strategists quoted in the article, an unnamed “Democratic strategist” (convenient), and Tamara Hiler from Third Way, a center-left think tank funded by Wall Street investment bankers designed to push back against progressives and bolster corporate congressional candidates.
  • The level of disregard for data is abhorrent for a pollster (Celinda Lake) and shows bias and/or a lack of knowledge on the subject matter. The Democratic Strategist on ‘background’ shows a shockingly scary lack of knowledge on the issue. Strategists are paid to win. The level of objectivity of this strategist is questionable.
  • The poll referenced by Hackman does not provide any data to assert the large claims from strategists and pollster Celinda Lake. Lake mentions a poll she helped conduct without offering the poll itself as proof. We don’t know when it took place or what questions were asked. It’s omission creates a lack of credibility for Lake and Hackman.  
  • A more recent poll shows 61% of total voters, 79% of Democrats, and 41% of Republicans support tuition-free college. Granted, the poll is conducted by a progressive organization, but this competing research, as well as its own biases, should be made evident by responsible journalists.
  • According to this June 2018 survey, overall support for tuition-free college is at 78%. According to the data, “strong support” for free tuition among Republicans reached its highest level yet at 33%. Granted, the poll is conducted by a progressive organization, but this competing research, as well as its own biases, should be made evident by responsible journalists.  
  • A poll conducted after the presidential election on behalf of the Campaign for Free College Tuition found 88% of Clinton voters and 54% of Trump voters support state initiatives to make college tuition free. Granted, the poll is conducted by a progressive organization, but this competing research, as well as its own biases, should be made evident by responsible journalists.  
  • Not only does pollster Celinda Lake make unsubstantiated claims and broad generalizations (“people don’t think it should just be free,” and “people think there should be some responsibility for individuals to shoulder at least some of college’s costs”), but she demonstrates that she too doesn’t know how tuition-free college works, or that she has a clear agenda to see that it doesn’t work. She states: “A lot of people think that something should be available other than just college.” Who is a lot of people? What does she mean by “other than just college?” Tuition-free college plans can very well include vocational schools and on the job training.
  • Pollster Celinda Lake enjoys co-opting the term progressive, but she is far from it. In fact, she even co-wrote a book with Kellyanne Conway. During the 2018 primary season, Lake donated $500 to Carolyn Long (WA-3rd) who ran against Justice Democrat Dorothy Gasque. Long is a corporate backed candidate (Amazon donated over $17,000 to her campaign, Boeing and Bain Capital donated over $5,000), while Gasque refused corporate PAC money. Lake has worked with several Third Way figures who willingly accept corporate PAC donations, a center-left think tank funded by Wall Street investment bankers designed to push back against progressives and bolster corporate congressional candidates.  
  • Despite attempts like Hackman’s to discredit college-for-all, the policy is so popular that it is starting to pierce the center. Maggie Thompson, Executive Director of Generation Progress, the youth engagement arm of the Center for American Progress, a centrist think tank said: “What we’re seeing now is the political conversation is finally catching up to where the voting population is on this issue.” Third Way ideological advocate Neera Tanden is the President of Center for American Progress and a staunch critic of grassroots progressives.
  • From Hackman’s tweets in support of minority and immigrant rights to her work with left-wing VOX, she appears to lean left and, based on her condescending tone towards progressive policies as “far-reaching”, while offering no substantive evidence to support her opinion, her bias is towards the Democratic Establishment.
  • This tweet suggests Hackman does not understand how much wealth the tax cuts stole from the American people. Other work from Hackman shows that, despite her Political Science degree, she does not understand why young Americans support Bernie Sanders more than Third Way figures. She conflates Socialism, Democratic Socialism, and Social Democracy – which is a curious error from someone with her education; although, it could very well be purposeful framing.

FACT 2: The Wall Street Journal obviously allows journalists to ignore data in favor of their bias.

It speaks volumes that the Wall Street Journal, as a conservative-leaning publication, hires left-leaning journalists who have an establishment bias, showing that the right-wing has more to gain from supporting establishment Democrats than progressives. WSJ obviously allows journalists to ignore data in favor of their bias.

  • The Wall Street Journal is one of the largest circulating newspapers in the United States and who owns it is important to understanding the publication’s agenda. The Wall Street Journal was bought by Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-American Publisher, for $5 billion in 2007, through his company News Corp., which was founded in 1979. Murdoch Founded FOX news in 1996.
  • Sites ranking the bias of the Wall Street Journal usually rank it as Center to Center-Right. Neither ideological vacuum advocates for “college-for-all” or “tuition-free college.”

FACT 3: Hackman provides no information on how tuition-free college actually works.

How tuition-free college actually works is consistently left out of articles like Hackman’s that support for-profit colleges and have a clear establishment bias towards corporate-run government. When the wealth of your parents largely determines your ability to go to college, that creates a system that is antithetical to our American values of freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity. No one is forced to go to college under a tuition-free college system. It is still up to each individual to take advantage of the opportunity and earn their way into college.

  • “Free college” is a misnomer and should be changed to “tuition-free college” or “college-for-all”, because the reality is that people across the political spectrum support tuition-free college when they understand how it actually works. For example, students still have to earn their way into college; the 11 countries that do it still charge minimal fees and have varying requirements. It’s no different than extending public school from 7th grade to high school as the U.S. did in the first half of the 20th century, except college would not be compulsory.
  • Eleven countries offer tuition-free college (Austria, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Brazil, Luxembourg, Iceland), and both France and Spain charge $775-$1,400 U.S. per semester. These countries have established college-entry requirements and minimal fees that vary according to their needs, and the U.S. can do the same.
  • 17 U.S. states offer a version of tuition-free college sometimes referred to as Tuition Break programs, showing political will does exist for such policies. Traditional red states like Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee are among the states offering Tuition Break programs.
  • Establishment political strategists, legislators, and media design the conversation away from the facts by using “free” college as a framing tactic in order to focus the debate on semantics rather than the policy itself. The reality is that having our taxes go towards a program that benefits our communities due to a more educated and trained workforce is something that people can get behind regardless of political party. Everyone wants their tax dollars to matter. For example, we just gave trillions in tax cuts to large corporations and the top 10% of wage earners, while one proposal for tuition-free college would cost $47 billion.

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