In The Trenches

My Presidential Platform

Published on January 4, 2016 Back to blog
Meme of Debate between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Jeff Freedman

Just before the holidays, while preparing the toast for Small Army’s annual holiday party, I was struggling to find a fun and unique way to recognize each person on the team. At first, I though about re-writing the words to Adele’s “Hello” and singing it karaoke style, but my kids convinced me otherwise (thank goodness).  I thought of giving “most likely to…” awards to each person on the team, but that didn’t seem all that original or current.  But then, somewhat surprisingly, the presidential debates sparked some inspiration.

Just as each presidential candidate shares a similar goal for a stronger country, everyone at Small Army shares a similar goal to create great effective work for our clients. However, also like each candidate, every member of the team has a different view on what that goal may look like and how best to get there.  So, in that spirit, I decided to identify the “platform” that each member of the team would stand for, if running for president. Our avid cyclist was running on the “no cars during rush hour” platform.  One of our designers was proposing to re-design all street signs (just because).  And, one of our relationship managers was promising “All reality TV all the time” (If Trump wins, this could actually happen… but, I digress).

When I was done, several people asked what my platform would be, and I skirted the issue. But the truth is, there is one topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately: Education.

I worry about the cost of education in this country – not only as a parent of two young children, but also as someone who sees the potential in so many young people who often don’t get the same opportunities of those with more financial means.  Many who could potentially make this country/world a better place are deprived the opportunity because they can’t afford to do so. And, the problem is only getting worse. 

I don’t proclaim to be an expert on this topic, but I’ve thought about it quite a bit. So, in the spirit of thinking differently and sharing, I’d like to toss out a few ideas: 

1.  Optional education tax
How about this one, Hillary?  At the age of 18, in exchange for agreeing to a lifelong “education tax,” the government will pay for 4-years of education at a public college. With this approach, the government is ultimately “investing in its children” – and everyone benefits.  

  • Students who can’t afford college can now attend, without worrying about huge student loans. This will not only help them get better jobs, but give the country better human resources to innovate and grow stronger.
  • Aside from having a stronger overall workforce, the country gets a better long-term return.  According to the College Board, the average cost of 2015-2016 in-state tuition at a public school is about $9,410 per year.  Using a 3% education tax as an example, the government would receive $81,000 (more than 2X the actual cost) from a participant who makes an average of $60k per year over a 45-year work career. This, of course, doesn’t account for interest or general inflation.
  • Colleges will not have to give as much financial aid, allowing them to ultimately lower the cost of tuition for everyone else.

2.  College-Student Investment Program
Harvard, are you listening? If colleges truly believe in the power of their education, why not invest in the people who go to school there?  Rather than just giving boatloads of financial aid money, colleges could simply “invest” in qualified students who would prefer to defer payment. In exchange for a percentage of their income from the time they graduate (similar to the education tax), the college will cover their tuition. All the same benefits as above apply, but the school gets the financial return.

3.  Student VC Platform
Attention VCs and Angel Investors.  Rather than invest in businesses/entrepreneurs, invest in students. Following the same logic as above, let’s create a website/business where investors/philanthropists can contribute to a fund that invests in students.  Potential students can  apply for funding in exchange for – you guessed it – a percentage of their future income. The people running the fund can make an “offer” to the potential student (i.e., we cover the cost of 4 years at X school in exchange for X% of your income from the time of graduation to age 65.) All the benefits of the above apply, except the “investors” get the financial benefit.  (There’s likely a non-profit approach to this one as well, but that’s probably a bit too much for this piece.)

Each of these scenarios  requires more financial, legal and operational analysis than I have the time and energy to put into it. If I did, I’d be running to start idea #3. But if you start it, I’ll humbly accept a 10% cut and we can call it a day.  🙂

As always, please feel free to share and/or tell me what you think by commenting here or sending me an email. Here’s to a great 2016! 

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners

PS.  As a board member of Nurtury, the longest serving provider of early childhood education in Boston’s inner city, I recognize that there are also significant challenges on that side of the education spectrum. Perhaps the ideas above can help solve that crisis as well. But, in the meantime, I may just reach out for some support.