Christie Bashes Debt-Free College Plans

By Published on June 12, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dealt a sharp counterblow Thursday to growing Democratic calls for debt-free college education, arguing such proposals are not just unfeasible but also morally wrong.

Of the four announced Democratic presidential candidates, three of them have expressed interest in lowering or eliminating the debt burden of college. Bernie Sanders has proposed making public colleges free. Martin O’Malley has called for Congress to slash interest on student loans, while Hillary Clinton has spoken generally in favor of reducing student debt, though her plan has yet to be revealed. Christie, speaking on education policy at Iowa State University in Ames, said he wasn’t surprised by their maneuvering.

“That is a typical liberal approach. It is wrong, and we know it,” he said.

Christie argued that, rather than simply being entitled to a college degree, those reaping the rewards of higher education must have some skin in the game.

“If college graduates are going to reap the greater economic rewards and opportunities of earning a degree, then it seems fair for them to support the cost of the education they’re receiving,” he said. “Earning a degree should actually involve earning it.”

Christie’s emphasis on personal responsibility may not have been exactly what the crowd at Iowa State was looking for, as attendees posting on Twitter suggested he met a lukewarm response.

Christie did endorse the idea of income-sharing agreements, in which a student has his or her tuition covered in return for pledging a certain percentage of their future earnings, and he advocated more subsidized loans to low-income students. Experiments with income-sharing agreements have also been proposed by Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio.

Christie cited the experience of his father, Bill, who turned down Columbia University because it was too expensive but later worked through Rutgers University with the help of the GI Bill.

“[It’s] the story of how our system is supposed to work – a system where we all need to take personal responsibility to grasp the opportunities of higher education, but also one where we can get a leg up when we need it,” he said.

Christie also said he supported rules for increased financial transparency at colleges.

“The college bill is the most opaque bill in the world,” he said. “It is often just three lines – tuition, room and board and other fees. It’s like getting a restaurant bill that just says ‘food.’ We would not accept that for a $60 dinner bill. We should not accept it for a $60,000 college bill.”

That opacity, Christie said, is allowing colleges to bloat up and become reckless with money.

“Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges, just because they know they can get huge revenues from tuition,” he said. “We have million dollar plus salaries for education administrators, and millions more being poured into unnecessary college bureaucracy.”


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