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Buttigieg, Sanders Aides Trade Barbs Over College Tuition Plans

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12/03/2019 | 05:12pm EST

By Eliza Collins

A spat between Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and his liberal rivals over their college tuition plans led to an argument Tuesday between campaign aides over which policy was most "elitist."

The tiff has been bubbling since the Buttigieg campaign released an ad last week highlighting his higher education plan, which would make public college tuition free for families earning up to $100,000. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed making tuition free for all Americans.

Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., told an NBC reporter Monday he was concerned that free-college proposals alienate people who do not have or want college degrees.

"If the message we're sending to them is that you need a college degree in order to get by in life, in order to prosper, in order to succeed, we're leaving most Americans out," he said.

Jeff Weaver, a top adviser to Mr. Sanders who ran his 2016 presidential campaign, responded Tuesday by calling Mr. Buttigieg's argument "ludicrous."

"The type of attitude that Mayor Pete Buttigieg is exhibiting here is in fact elitist in itself. The reason not everyone is going to college is in fact because not everyone can afford to go to college," he said in a call with reporters.

Lis Smith, a top adviser to Mr. Buttigieg, responded to Mr. Weaver on Twitter: "1-@PeteButtigieg wants to tax the wealthy & spend it on lower & middle income students- NOT the wealthy

2- He, unlike other candidates in this race, understands that not everyone NEEDS to go to college & that's it's height of elitism to suggest ppl can't live well w/o a degree," she tweeted.

Mr. Buttigieg has also argued that free-college plans should not apply to the children of wealthy people. Supporters of universal tuition-free proposals say such public services are designed to benefit all Americans, regardless of income level.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent surrogate of Mr. Sanders's, accused Mr. Buttigieg of "engaging in bad faith tactics to undermine progressive policies" by questioning whether free-college proposals alienate Americans without degrees.

Matt Corridoni, an aide to Mr. Buttigieg, responded on Twitter: "Taxpayers shouldn't pay for millionaires to go to college for free."

Write to Eliza Collins at eliza.collins@wsj.com

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LIVE COMPANY GROUP PLC -15.87% 26.5 Delayed Quote.-58.27%
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