Here’s one idea for bringing down soaring college costs: Get Hillary Clinton off the speaking circuit.
By one estimate, the former secretary of state has charged eight universities and colleges – including four public institutions – a total of at least $1.8 million in speaking fees over the past year.
The presumed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate has gotten a spate of bad coverage about the mega bucks she and husband Bill Clinton have raked in from their speeches after she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer last month that the couple emerged from the White House “not only dead broke, but in debt.”
Later, she attempted to revise those words and put to rest questions about whether she can still connect with ordinary Americans after amassing a fortune in fees charged largely to business and banking groups and other special interests. But to some, she seems tone deaf on the issue, as more information emerges about the exorbitant fees she’s charged colleges and universities at a time of mounting tuition costs and student debt.
Student body leaders in Nevada, California and elsewhere have begun publicly complaining about these fees – with some even asking she return a portion of them.
Her fattest fees thus far was $300,000 for a speech at the Luskin Lecture for Thought forum at the University of California in Los Angeles in March – and $251,250 for a speech at the University of Connecticut in April, according to an accounting today by The Washington Post. A foundation supporting the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) has agreed to pay her $225,000 to speak at a gala fundraising dinner on October 13.
Clinton has also given speeches to at least five other schools that so far have declined to reveal her speaking fees, including the University of Buffalo, Colgate University, Hamilton College, Simmons College and the University of Miami. Assuming she charged those five schools at least her base fee of $200,000, Clinton’s overall take from colleges, universities and related institutions totals at least $1.8 million, said The Post.
Reports about the $225,000 speaking fee at UNLV touched off a campus flare-up. Student leaders last Friday sent a letter to the Clinton family foundation urging Clinton to “do what is right” and donate all or part of her fee back to the university for the students’ benefit, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. “In keeping with Secretary Clinton’s longstanding history of advocating for students in higher education, we as student government leaders are asking that she charitably donate part or all of the $225,000 speaking fee she is reportedly making for this fundraising speech back to the UNLV Foundation as a whole,” the letter stated.
“The students are outraged about this,” Elias Benjelloun, president of the student body, told The Washington Post. “When you see reckless spending, it just belittles the sacrifices students are consistently asked to make.”
Clinton’s office recently told The Washington Post that the fee UNLV has agreed to pay would go to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s non-profit global philanthropic organization. Also, a UNLV spokesperson said Clinton’s fee is covered by private sponsorships – and not public money.
Since leaving the State Department in February 2013, Clinton has made at least 90 speeches and received fees for at least two dozen of them, according to a report by Mother Jones. Exact figures aren’t available, but the Center for Responsive Politics estimated broadly that Hillary Clinton’s net worth is between $5.2 and $25.5 million as of 2012. Bill Clinton amassed $104.9 million for delivering 542 speeches around the world between 2001 and 2013, according to a recent analysis by The Washington Post. Most other analysts put their combined net worth, including real estate and investments, at well over $100 million.
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