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Clinton raises campaign cash; advocates for affordable education

Speaking to supporters of higher education, Hillary Clinton Monday night urged the private business community to partner with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to help more young people earn college degrees that will give them more opportunity for higher-paying jobs of the future.

Now, Clinton said, the cost of education is too high for many students, particularly those with little money and access to grants and scholarships. And the job market is so challenging that even graduates with college degrees are having difficulty finding their first job to launch their careers.

The Millennial generation is talented, smart and hard-working but doesn’t have as many job opportunities as Clinton did when she was young, she said, speaking at the annual UNLV Foundation dinner held to thank top donors of the university.

As a result, young people are delaying launching careers of their choice, buying their first homes and even getting married, she said.

“We have a lot more work to do if we want to unleash the full potential and make sure more Americans feel they, too, have a future,” Clinton said to applause. “That’s especially true for our young people. … Many Millennials are still struggling … in a difficult job market.”

Clinton, a former secretary of state who is expected to run for president in 2016 on the Democratic ticket, also said that post-graduation many students are burdened by student debt “that can feel like an anchor dragging them down.” This, too, puts their future at risk, she said.

Clinton praised President Barack Obama for increasing federal Pell grants by $1,000 and working to cap student loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income, but she said young people feel overwhelmed by debt even as they struggle to find employment in their field of study.

“More needs to be done,” she said. “Higher education shouldn’t be a privilege for those able to afford it. It should be an opportunity widely available for anybody with the talent, determination and ambition” to learn.

Clinton said her family’s nonprofit charity, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, has started a program, “Job One,” to partner private business with higher education to help students.

In Nevada, she said, Barrick Gold has partnered with Great Basin Community College and the Shoshone Tribe to develop education and job programs to help students get more work experience.

“We think that first job is essential,” Clinton said. “I think our young people deserve a fair shot. And Barrick Gold’s investment in Nevada is one example … to prepare young people to compete.”

Clinton praised UNLV for deciding to open a medical school and aiming for Tier 1 status as a university. And she urged the business community to get more involved instead of just counting on government to help students. In the end, she said, it will help companies’ bottom lines.

UNLV President Don Snyder “has been known to say you can’t have a great city without a great university. I think he’s right,” Clinton summed up.

After her 25-minute speech, Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun, a Clinton family friend, gave the former first lady a pair of tennis shoes, saying they were “running shoes,” a not so subtle hint that she should run for the White House. It also evoked memories of a Las Vegas speech Clinton gave in the spring during which a protester threw a pair of shoes at her, which she ducked.

Before Clinton spoke, UNLV honored Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson for donating $7 million to the university this year for the hotel college, his latest effort to support the school.

Adelson also is one of the most generous GOP political donors and would likely support any Republican candidate who ran against Clinton if she runs for president.

Clinton said she chatted backstage with Adelson and he told her, “I wish they’d paired me with you to ask the questions. We could have a real debate.”

“Well, that would certainly draw a crowd,” Clinton quipped. “I think you’d need a boxing arena for that to be pulled off.”

More than 900 people attended the sold-out UNLV dinner at the Bellagio where the top donor tables went for $3,000 to $20,000 each. The Foundation raised more than $350,000 from top donors alone, and the annual UNLV dinner was expected to make a profit, according to the university. UNLV also raised nearly $235,000 from a pledge drive held during the dinner, the university said.

The dinner also honored the late Kitty Rodman, a longtime UNLV supporter, whose estate Monday donated a record high $12.9 million gift to the College of Education. The money will support scholarships and graduate fellowships for UNLV students studying special education.

Clinton was paid $225,000 for the hour-long event, including her speech and question-and-answer session, a fee that has been criticized because it’s coming from a nonprofit educational foundation. UNLV student leaders also have called on Clinton to donate her fee to the university instead of giving it to her family’s Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Under Clinton’s contract, the UNLV event initially was closed to media coverage. But she had a change of heart, and last week UNLV said her 8 p.m. speech would be open to press coverage.

Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have made $100 million from speaking fees since leaving the White House in 2001. The high fees have become an issue even before Clinton officially announces a presidential run. Critics question whether she has lost touch with the middle class.

During her recent book tour, Clinton defended accepting high speaking fees by noting that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House.

Before the UNLV Foundation dinner, Clinton headlined a private Nevada Democratic Party fundraiser where donors were asked to contribute from $1,000 to $10,000 each. Money went to the state party and to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., for his 2016 re-election campaign.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.,

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