Ind. Republicans Take Page from Obama Higher Ed Playbook

Ahead of their short legislative session starting in January, some top Republican lawmakers in Indiana are floating a plan to make college free for some Hoosier students. Faced with the need to recruit teachers for Indiana public schools, Speaker Brian Bosma (R) is proposing that the state pay for 100% of college tuition if students choose to become teachers for at least five years after college. The plan would pay for tuition to not only state schools but also more expensive private universities.

Although Indiana Republican legislative leaders are pushing the plan, Bosma provided his Republican House colleagues with no estimate of the price tag of the free college proposal. It is an effort to “get Indiana’s best and brightest to the classroom,” Bosma told legislators. According to Chalkbeat Indiana, an education news website, annual college tuition can span quite the range:

“That would include tuition at any of Indiana’s public or private institutions, he said. Annual tuition at the University of Notre Dame is $48,000 a year. That’s much more than in-state tuition at public university. At Indiana University, for example, tuition is about $10,300 a year.”

Bosma and other advocates of the measure are taking their ideas straight out of President Barack Obama’s higher education reform playbook. In his 2015 State of the Union address, Obama outlined a plan to make the first two years of college free to students with qualifying – read “good enough” – grades. Democratic presidential candidate and socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) one-upped the President’s proposal, suggesting that the federal government should pay for all four years of college tuition.

The only thing the Bosma higher education plan does differently than the Sanders plan is require participants to teach for five years before moving on with their careers.

The Obama and Sanders higher education plans are both the partial products of work done at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’ based HOPE Lab, a think-tank housed at the public university that serves as a cheerleader and incubator for big-spending solutions to college affordability.

A federal program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, offers graduates student loan forgiveness after they make 120 months of qualifying payments while they work for the government or nonprofit organizations. Teaching in a public school would count as a job that qualifies for the student loan forgiveness.