Bernie Sanders introduces legislation to make college tuition-free, debt-free

WASHINGTON -– Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Wednesday introduced the College for All Act to open up the dream of a college degree to millions of working-class children. The legislation would make the most substantial federal investment in higher education in the modern history of the United States and its transformative potential is on par with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Higher Education Act of 1965.

While the Biden Administration reviews how much student debt the president can cancel without Congress, the College for All Act will end the debt spiral in which too many working families find themselves. The bill is modeled directly after the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force proposal and the Plan for Education Beyond High School that President Biden campaigned on.

“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,” Sen. Sanders said. “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.”

“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,” Rep. Jayapal said. “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.”

The legislation if passed would guarantee tuition-free community college for all students, and allow students from families earning under $125,000 a year to attend public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free. It would also guarantee students from families earning under $125,000 a year can attend tuition-free and debt-free public and private, non-profit Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions. The bill also makes an annual $10 billion federal investment to cover student support programs at these under-funded institutions.

The College for All Act doubles the maximum Pell Grant to $12,990, allows students to use the money to cover living and non-tuition expenses, like books and housing, and expands grant eligibility to Dreamers.

The legislation also 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. But the legislation also 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 the Tax on Wall Street Speculation Act, also being reintroduced today by Sen. Sanders, that puts a 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. Rep. Barbara Lee will be reintroducing the companion for the tax legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and endorsed by more than 100 organizations.

Read the bill summary here.
Read the legislative text here.
Read organizational statements of support here.
Read the names of more than 700 academics who support the bill here.
Read the Summary of the Tax on Wall Street Speculation Act here.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

9 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders introduces legislation to make college tuition-free, debt-free

  1. Free college is already available – simply serve on active duty in our military for a few years. I can understand why Sanders and his Socialist comrades don’t like that.

  2. I suggest we stop holding the educational futures of young adults hostage to their parents income.

    If the actual user paid for the service of college, the price and value would right size very quickly.

  3. Bernie’s solution to any and all problems is…….Throw money at it.

    And again, with the cost of higher education, Bernie’s solution is to throw more money at the problem. Of course there is no money to throw at the higher education problems. So the US Treasury would have to borrow, probably from China, or simply turn on the presses and print more money leading to future inflation.

    Whether, the federal government borrows the money or prints it, the end cost will wind up on the college kids and others who will have to ultimately repay the borrowed or printed money. There is nothing free with Bernie’s plan……He’s simply kicking the can down the road.

    If Bernie were a big thinker, he would propose and lead a “Transformative Plan” to make colleges actually efficient and affordable…….Higher education has gotten sloppy and lazy in its operation and failed to find ways to meet the needs of its customers (The students and their families) via affordable tuition and fees…….So, it is higher education that has to change and change dramatically if the cost problem is ever to be solved.

    Bernie’s solution of free college is nothing more than a continuation of the existing system……He’s simply proposing to pay for education out of a different pocket resulting in ever mounting government debt and deadly future inflation.

    • One more thought……Bernie’s plan to levy more taxes to pay for his plan fails to take into consideration President Biden’s Infrastructure, New Green Deal and other plans costing trillions of dollars that will more than suck all the taxing capacity out of the economy……..There’s nothing left to be taxed.

  4. Indoctrination should be “free” shouldn’t it ? It’s not like your getting a real education.

    “We are taught to admire the Second Hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man that made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement”.
    Ayn Rand

  5. Ask why Bernie says a high school education is no longer sufficient. Answer in part is that the school doesn’t require excellence. Make college free for everyone and then everyone, qualified or not, has the right to attend. Standards for graduation are lowered, making the degree worth less. Ask also why the emphasis on college. Why not tech schools and apprenticeships programs?

  6. Let’s see thousands if not millions have gone to college and have faithfully paid back
    their debt, and now Socialist Sanders thinks that all college debt should be paid off
    with taxpayer dollars…………

    So what form do we fill out in order to get the money back that we had paid on our
    college debt ??

    I have a better idea Senator, how about have those that want their student loan paid
    paid off, they spend a little time working for Uncle Sam !!

  7. What are the bern and people like him going to do when they run out on other people’s money. It is especially precious since so many of the people he wants to bail out have useless degrees.

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