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Chelsea Clinton visits North Carolina, discusses college affordability

Chelsea Clinton visited Wake Forest University and Carrboro to kick off voter registration and to discuss North Carolina education plans. Photo courtesy of Sydney Feinglass. 

Chelsea Clinton visited Wake Forest University and Carrboro to kick off voter registration and to discuss North Carolina education plans. Photo courtesy of Sydney Feinglass. 

In an overflowing Carrboro Democratic campaign office, Clinton was introduced by Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle.

“As First Lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as a United States Senator, as our country’s Secretary of State, we see in Hillary Clinton someone who is tireless in working on behalf of others,” Lavelle said.

Clinton began her address by praising the Carrboro campaign office.

“This is the most active, dynamic field office in all the ones that we have across the state,” Clinton said.

Rebecca Kronebusch, a UNC student at the event, said she thinks it is significant Clinton chose to visit Carrboro because it was once a popular location for supporters of former Democratic presidential primary candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I. V.T., like herself.

She said she plans to support Hillary Clinton in November and didn’t have a problem shifting her support from Sanders to Hillary Clinton.

“I hope to see her just uniting the Democratic Party because I think she’s doing a really good job of that so far,” she said. “I really hope that people continue to see that she’s the only viable option for president.”

In her speech, Clinton said it was important to keep the election focused on policy concerns.

“I think we just have to keep reminding people that this election is not a reality television show,” she said. “That this election is about serious issues facing our country.”

At Clinton’s event at Wake Forest University the previous day, she unveiled Hillary Clinton’s new policy plan, which would allow families with incomes of less than $125,000 — more than 89 percent of N.C. households — to pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.

Eric Johnson, spokesperson for UNC’s financial aid office, said he questions the logistics of the plan.

“With all plans like this, the question is always where is the money going to come from?” he said.

Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said he also found it hard to tell from the plan how it would be funded.

But he said he supports the idea and is concerned about rising tuition costs alongside the importance of a four-year college degree.

“It’s perverse that over the same time that we’ve upped the educational requirements for these various jobs, that we’ve also increased the cost of it — that’s made it really difficult,” he said.

The plan focuses on two aspects of college affordability — costs inhibiting enrollment and debt limiting graduates.

Jenna A. Robinson, president of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the plan addresses a legitimate problem, but she does not think it is the right plan and could hurt the private colleges not included.

“I know there is a plan to help some HBCU’s and some small colleges without endowments, but there are a lot of small universities that won’t be involved in this, and for them it’ll be a real blow,” she said.

Robinson said she estimates the costs would start at $3.4 billion and would encourage people to go to a four-year university when that might not be the right path for them.

“I think that she has picked up on something that people of all different political stripes acknowledge is a problem,” she said.

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In the press release for the report, Chelsea Clinton said her mom is committed to helping all children live up to their potential.

“Making college affordable for all of North Carolinians is a fundamental part of that goal,” she said.