Facebook comment on news article forces institutional change

Photo credit: Kyle Hampel

Following the rising popularity of Facebook user Elle Manuel’s comment on a TIME Magazine article, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced today that Congress has unanimously approved a bill that would make all public colleges and universities tuition-free.

Manuel’s response to “Putting the Rising Cost of College in Perspective” from August 2016 prompted insightful and thought-provoking comments in reply, but the original comment itself was the catalyst for change. She posted her comment on Wednesday.

“I think college in America should be free,” the comment reads. “I finished college 10 years ago and I’m still in debt. And the cost has gone up since then! Unbelievable.”

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Photo credit: Kyle Hampel

The comment has now garnered more than 8,500 reactions, including about 5,000 likes, 2,000 hearts and 300 “wow” faces.

“Amen!!!” Sheryl Lou Smith, Facebook user since 2013, wrote in reply.

Others who commented were not as supportive of Manuel’s idea. The most highly-liked comment in response to Manuel was posted by Bob Thompson, whose profile picture is an image of a silver Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“Education is a privilege not a right,” Thompson commented. “You’ve gotta work hard to make it in America. No handouts for the lazy! I worked my way through school so you all can too!”

Despite the backlash, Manuel’s comment gained national attention, catching the eye of some members of Congress. The unlikely pairing of Republican senator Mitch McConnell and Independent senator Bernie Sanders drafted SB 1337 late Friday evening and asked both chambers of Congress to meet early Saturday morning to start committee work on the bill. SB 1337 was approved by both the Senate and the House by 8 p.m. that same day.

“I’m glad we were able to pass a bill that people on both sides of the aisle agreed on,” Senator Sanders said to the Washington Post. “The hardest part was convincing everyone to come in on a Saturday.”

McConnell spoke on CNN Saturday afternoon, saying that Manuel’s statement caused him to change his mind on the issue of tuition-free education.

“Her stance was so compelling,” McConnell said.

The bill still must be signed by President Donald Trump, who is currently on a Disney cruise in the Bahamas. Many political experts state that there is a good chance the president will sign the bill, since he likes writing his name “very huge” on official documents.

Manuel said in a Facebook post today that she is grateful for the action taken for reforming postsecondary education in the U.S.

According to Manuel’s Facebook profile, she graduated from The Ohio State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is single and resides in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Her liked pages include the movie “13 Going on 30,” the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress,” NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and Muscle Milk.

If passed, SB 1337 will go into affect on August 1, 2018.

TIME Magazine has not yet responded to Manuel’s comment and the change it has provoked. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also has yet to comment.

This story is an April Fools’ joke and not intended to be taken seriously.

I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.