Sen. Bernie Sanders’ New Bill Would Make Attending a Four-Year Public College Free
By Annie Wood
This first appeared on genprogress.org
Senator Bernie Sanders may be shaking up the 2016 presidential election already, but he’s also continuing to make waves in Congress. The senator from Vermont has proposed something pretty radical: free college for all at public four-year colleges and universities for those who meet admission standards. Of course, Senator Sanders has received criticism for the idea, but seeing as the class of 2015 just graduated with the most student debt in history, it’s clear this country is in need of real solutions to the soaring cost of college.
Just last week, Senator Sanders introduced his bill, the College for All Act, which would make higher education accessible by all Americans. Senator Sanders, an Independent and self-proclaimed socialist, has taken a European-like approach to wealth redistribution in the interest of making education a public good.
“Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education to their young people. They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth. We should be doing the same,” said Senator Sanders.
Senator Sanders says he wants to go back to the good ‘ol days, say around 1965, when hard-working Americans could study hard and pursue a college degree at a public, four-year university for just $243. Over the last decade alone, tuition has climbed by 50 percent at public colleges and universities. Much of this has to do with states divesting from higher education.
In addition to his free college legislation, Senator Sanders has also pushed for expanding Pell Grants and has asserted that student loan programs must be overhauled to keep heaping debt loads from crushing graduates. Today, student loan debt far exceeds credit card debt in America. Unlike credit card debtors, students are encouraged to borrow, and are told they’re making a wise investment only to find out four years later they’ve been slammed with debt for being responsible.
“We have a crisis in this country,” said Senator Sanders recently remarked before a crowd at American University. “Too many of our young people cannot afford a college education and those who do go to college are faced with crushing debt. HIgher education must be available to all Americans who have the desire and ability. This is enormously important if we are to rebuild the middle class, and if we are going to be competitive in the global economy.”
A recent paper from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the think tank Demos proposed a blueprint for a bill for debt-free college in America. The ideal piece of legislation would mean allocating federal aid to states to lower the cost of tuition at public colleges, increasing need-based aid to students who qualify, and other measures to cut costs, like standardizing transfer credits and opting for entirely online books rather than pricy, physical textbooks.
According to Mic, just 14 percent of this year’s college graduates have a job lined up, which means roughly 5 out of 6 grads are not employed after obtaining an expensive degree, considering this year’s average student loan debt amount is around $35,051. Senator Bernie Sanders has declared he won’t sit around while young people are punished for pursuing college degrees. As a 24-year veteran in Congress, it’s no wonder he’s prepared to ruffle some feathers while bringing the student debt crisis to his colleagues’ and the country’s attention.