WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families and to significantly reduce student debt.
“Our young people are forced to make untenable choices: Going to college and taking on mountains of debt, or foregoing their college degree to work part-time or minimum wage jobs that simply won’t allow them to build a future,” said Rep. Jayapal. “The College for All Act renews our compact with our young people. We’re going to piece back together the broken promises of a broken American Dream, and give back hope and opportunity to the middle class and working families across this country.”
“Higher education in America should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” Senator Sanders said. “If we are to succeed in a highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world, public colleges and universities must become tuition-free for working families and we must substantially reduce student debt.”
The legislation would eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 and make community college tuition- and fee-free for all.
Public colleges and universities are already tuition free in many advanced countries including Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The College for All Act would also reduce crushing student loan debt – which now exceeds credit card debt – for students and parents. The bill would cut all student loan interest rates for new borrowers in half; enable existing borrowers to refinance their loans based on the interest rates available to new borrowers – less than 2 percent for federal loans made to undergraduates; and prevent the federal government from profiting off the student loan program.
Jayapal introduced the bill in the House along with Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jamie Raskin, (D-MD), David Cicilline (D-RI), Peter Welch (D-Vt), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.). In the Senate, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined Sanders as co-sponsors of the legislation.
Today, the average student takes on over $30,000 in debt to get a bachelors degree from a four-year college or university. In addition to eliminating tuition, the College for All Act would substantially reduce student debt by allowing existing federal aid to cover the cost of books, housing, transportation and the other costs of college; require the states and tribes participating in the program to cover the full cost of college for their poorest student; and increase federal investment in work study programs.
The College for All Act would also support students historically underrepresented in higher education. It would establish a dedicated grant program to eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees for low-income students at nonprofit historically black colleges and universities and private, nonprofit minority serving institutions. It would also double funding for TRIO programs and increase funding for the GEAR UP program so more first-generation and low-income students can enroll in and graduate college.
The bill has been endorsed by Washington Student Association, UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate, the United States Students Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Professors, the Asian American & Pacific Island Association of Colleges and Universities, the Service Employees International Union, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Nurses United, MoveOn.org and several other organizations.
The estimated $600 billion cost of the legislation would be paid for by a separate bill to tax Wall Street speculation. By imposing a small Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.5 percent on stock trades, a 0.1 percent fee on bonds and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives, the tax would raise at least $600 billion over the next decade. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and some 40 countries have already imposed a tax.
For a fact sheet on the College for All Act, click here.
For a copy of the College for All Act, click here.