Swarthmore has not had the best track record of receiving presidential figures. Last year former President Bill Clinton was considered but not able to be received by Swarthmore and instead visited Bryn Mawr College. Similarly, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was recently denied a rally at Swarthmore and instead made an appearance at Strath Haven High School.
Clinton fans, however, were rewarded by an afternoon with Chelsea Clinton to represent her mother, brought by the Students for Hillary Clinton group. Since the event coincided with the first day of Ride the Tide, accepted students’ weekend, the audience was mixed with prospective and current students and administrators.
The campus Clinton group initially tried to bring Hillary Clinton to Swarthmore, but member Michael May recognized that it would be logistically difficult. “Chelsea Clinton is unique in that she does not have Secret Service, [so it is] logistically much easier, [and she] usually attracts smaller crowds,” said May. The younger Clinton also frequently visits college campuses to represent her mother.
“Chelsea is one of the most ardent supporters of her mom,” said May. “She gives a unique perspective as a young adult.”
The event was primarily in the form of a question and answer session proceeded by a fifteen minute speech by Clinton. Clinton began the forum by speaking on issues that were directly pertinent to the audience, including increasing financial aid opportunities. Some of her ideas included increasing access to Pell grants and the amount of each grant.
“The Pell grant is $5,400 maximum because my mom helped advocate Pell grant dollars. She wants to radically reform it by doubling it to $10,800 and expanding eligibility,” said Clinton.
Other policy ideas included decreasing interest students pay on their student loans and replacing FAFSA with “a checkbox.” “It is really expensive to administer FAFSA forms,” justified Clinton. Another policy included “forgiving” loans completely. “If you are willing to do a job in the public interest, social interest, community police, that will be service in kind to help pay off loans. If you have any debt after 20 years, then it will be forgiven,” said Clinton.
Clinton briefly spoke on several other issues that were pertinent to college students, including Hillary Clinton’s plan for universal health care.
The main theme of the question and answer session, however, was transparency of financing and reversing the policies set by the current presidential administration. Clinton emphasized removing the No Child Left Behind act and substituting this with alternatives to strengthen public schools based on increasing standards. Additionally, she talked about the Bush administration’s unwillingness to address the issue of withdrawing from Iraq.
Similarly, Clinton highlighted the budget deficit accrued in the last decade and her mother’s policies to bring the country back to the economic situation in the ’90s. “She wants to go back to higher tax rates for people who earn more than $250,000. They were doing pretty well in the ’90s and are doing well now. People who did well should help to build our future,” said Clinton. Other types of financing included increasing taxes on oil companies.
Clinton-supporter pre-frosh Sonali Parasrampuria commented, “I thought it was a unique experience to meet her,” she said. “What I am most impressed by was that [Clinton] was able to answer in depth about her mom’s positions. Hilary’s education and healthcare plan were most impressive to me.”
May was particularly pleased with his group’s ability to “accomplish a lot,” he said. “We brought three speakers earlier on.” He admitted that being a Clinton supporter is difficult, but attributes it to a widespread appeal Obama has for college students. “As I became actively involved with the Clinton group, I started to notice that, as with most college campuses I assume, Obama is more popular,” he said.
May acknowledged the appeal of Obama as a “beautiful speaker, great orator.” However, his support of Clinton is rooted in her policies, particularly in healthcare and education. “Some of these issues are the most important to college students, like healthcare. People are going to be graduating without a steady job or incurring high insurance costs. [This plan is] more effective than Barack’s plan, since [Barack’s plan] does not cover everyone. Ideologically, we have to address healthcare from the perspective that it’s universal. These programs hinge hugely on national debt and immensely on the next election and are of importance to college students.”