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Jayapal and Sanders Introduce College for All Act

Legislation makes community college free for everyone and eliminates tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led lawmakers today in introducing the College for All Act, transformative legislation that opens up the dream of a college degree to millions of working class students. The proposal eliminates tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 — nearly 80 percent of families — while also making community college free for every person across the country. This would make the most substantial federal investment in higher education in modern American history.

As the Biden Administration reviews how much student debt the president can cancel through executive action, the College for All Act will end the debt spiral that too many working families find themselves in. This will ensure that America never returns to a debt crisis like the one happening right now in which more than 45 million people hold over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. 

“While President Biden can and should immediately cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, Congress must ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans to receive a higher education in the first place,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The College for All Act will free students from a lifetime of debt, invest in working people, and transform higher education across America by making community college free for everyone and eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000.” 

“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” said Senator Sanders. “If we are going to have the kind of standard of living that the American people deserve, we need to have the best educated workforce in the world. It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money. In the 21st century, a free public education system that goes from kindergarten through high school is no longer good enough. The time is long overdue to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free for working families.” 

Aligned with the Plan for Education Beyond High School that President Biden championed last year, the legislation guarantees tuition-free community college for all students, and ensures that students from families earning under $125,000 a year are able to attend public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free. It would also guarantee that students in families who earn less than $125,000 a year can attend non-profit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) tuition-free and debt-free. Additionally, the bill makes an annual $10 billion federal investment to cover student support programs in these under-funded institutions.

The College for All Act also doubles the maximum Pell Grant to $12,990, allows students to use the money to cover living and non-tuition expenses such as books and housing, and expands grant eligibility to Dreamers. Additionally, the legislation triples federal TRIO and doubles GEAR UP funding to serve millions of additional low-income students, students with disabilities, and first-generation college students in their pursuit of a higher education.

The federal government’s share of the cost of eliminating tuition and fees at public institutions is set at 75% with states paying the remainder. However, the legislation includes an automatic stabilizer to increase that share to 90% in the case of an economic downturn. The College for All Act is paid for by a Wall Street speculation tax of 0.5% on stock trades, a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. The tax would raise up to $2.4 trillion over the next decade. 

The bill is co-sponsored in the House by Representatives Blumenauer, Bowman, Bush, Clarke, Espaillat, Garcia (IL), Gomez, Jones, Khanna, Lee (CA), Maloney (NY-12), McNerney, Meng, Napolitano, Norton, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pingree, Pocan, Schakowsky, Swalwell, Thompson (MS), Tlaib, Torres (NY), Vargas, Watson Coleman, Welch, and Williams (GA).

The College for All Act is also endorsed by dozens of local, state, and national organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, SEIU, MoveOn, Public Citizen, Community Change Action, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Children’s Defense Fund. A comprehensive list of endorsing organizations is available here

Read the bill summary here.

Read the legislative text here.

Read organizational statements of support here.

Read the Summary of the Tax on Wall Street Speculation Act here.