Hillary Clinton has a plan to reform how America pays for college. But there’s something strange about how she talks about it.

As she said in a speech in New Hampshire:

I have a heavy emphasis on the paying down the debt and different ways to help the students do exactly that. I also believe that people who are getting an education need to have some responsibility for their education. So I have a plan that will make it possible for anybody attending a four-year college or university to avoid having to borrow money for tuition, but we are still going to have to expect the students to do their part. I believe in the students working, you know, ten hours a week is what I recommend. So I think that my plan is really aimed at addressing the issue issues that I hear young Americans talking to me about.

She says under her plan poor kids will have to work ten hours a week, because America should “expect the students to do their part.”

Clinton criticized the Bernie Sanders college reform plan, saying that her plan is “more
comprehensive, because I am aiming at getting the costs down, not putting more money in the system so that the costs keep rising.”

This is a good point, but does her proposed policy really deliver? Clinton:

It would be beneficial and helpful for students to make their own contribution if they are seeking financial help for them to make their own contribution, and for the colleges to get costs down by having students working toward the payments of, their dues, their fees, their living expenses. No, but it is recommended and you can go online and see all of the specifics of what I am offering, and in particular the national service component and the young parent component is something that I think is overlooked by too many people and not in part of other people’s plans.

I went online and looked “all of the specifics of what she is offering” and the details are that the federal government would offer $175 billion in grants to states. In exchange states would promise to increase spending over time and slow the growth of tuition.

This is in contrast to Bernie’s plan to give money to states in exchange for their promising just to spend more money on higher education.

But the two plans really aren’t that different, especially given that if either of them were elected Congress would extensively revise such proposals.

But there’s something a little odd about the suggestion that the poor “need” to work 10 hours a week. The Clinton plan looks a like work-study, which has been available to poor and middle class college students for 50 years. It provides federal money for students to work 10 to 12 hours a week on campus. But the program hasn’t really had much impact on the cost of college.

This isn’t a bad idea, but the emphasis on work is unnecessary. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all college students, and virtually all low-income ones, already work.

In fact, it may not be a policy stance at all, but just political move to make her seem more moderate. See, Sanders wants to give socialist giveaways (free stuff!) and she wants to make sure people are working. In truth, there’s no reason to ensure people will work; poor people already work while they’re attending college, and always have.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer