Bernie Sanders Vs. Hillary Clinton: College Tuition, Who Really Won?

The first Democratic Debate for the 2016 presidential nomination is over, and Bernie Sanders, as well as Hillary Clinton, made it a point to address the “free” college tuition plans that they have up their sleeves.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton participate in the 2015 Democratic Party Debate in Las Vegas. [Photo courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images.]

O’Malley and Webb didn’t contribute much to the discussion on the topic of college education, and Chafee, who had the least speaking time of all the candidates, didn’t contribute at all.

Clinton and Sanders both have plans to change the way America goes to college, and both also would like Congress to lower interest rates on federal student loans, but the similarities end there. Clinton and Sanders have very different ways of going about making “free tuition” possible — and in the end, it isn’t too “free.”

Clinton, who went into the debate as the front-runner, has a plan to create an incentive program for states. This program will give federal money to states who guarantee “no-loan tuition” at their four-year public colleges and universities. A student once told Clinton that the “hardest thing about going to college should not be paying for it.” If Clinton is elected, she states that students will be able to take part in the “tuition free” option if they so desire, and if they are willing to work at least 10 hours a week. The plan will cost about $350 billion over 10 years, and will be funded by closing tax loopholes.

Sanders’ plan, on the other hand, taxes Wall Street transactions and puts that money toward absolutely free public colleges and universities for everyone.

“This is the year 2015. A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago…. We don’t need a complicated system, which is what the secretary is talking about. I pay for my program through a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will not only make colleges and universities tuition-free, it will substantially lower college debt.”

Sanders, a socialist, believes that every child in America should be able to obtain a college education, and feels that his plan will help reach that goal. Sanders also feels that student loan debt is a “major crisis,” and that colleges’ prices are “outrageously high.”

Education aside, who really won the debate? News outlets paint a portrait of a hands-down victory by Clinton, but the internet usage doesn’t quite match up, and leans more in Sanders’ favor.

Bernie Sanders listens to Hillary Clinton at the 2015 Democratic Party Debate in Las Vegas. [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.]

Let’s start with the most influential social media platform out there: Twitter. In terms of Twitter mentions, Sanders was mentioned 407,000 times, more than any other candidate combined. Sanders earned himself 42,730 new followers during and after the debate, which is far more than Clinton’s 25,475. Per minute, Sanders was mentioned 12,000 times. Clinton? Only 8,300 times per minute. Sanders’ tweets were 69 percent positive, compared to Clinton’s, who were only 56 percent positive.

On Facebook, Sanders won the most talked-about candidate award, with Clinton in a distant second. US News did a live-blog poll, and Sanders was voted the winner of last night’s debate, with 82 percent of the vote. He also managed to nab an astonishing $1.4 million in new endorsements after the debate. A Fox News focus group chose Sanders as the favorite candidate 8-3.

News outlets everywhere ran their own online polls, and in the majority of those polls, Sanders was the clear favorite. However, when it came time for CNN to draw their poll to a close, they seemingly ignored the general population’s votes for Sanders and touted Clinton as the winner. Some theorize that this happened because Time Warner is one of Clinton’s biggest donors.

Polls and social media aside, who do you think won, and why? What issues are you most concerned about?

[Featured image courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images]