New Sanders University Tuition Plan

It is sensible for education at public colleges and universities to be free, especially when much of that is paid for by the Wall Street criminals that were bailed out after massively contributing to the economic catastrophe around 2008. Plenty of the old school conservatives were in favor of free education. That so many have debilitating student loan debt and others avoid university due to financial costs is a disconcerting reality.

President Donald Trump doesn’t appear willing nor interested in addressing astronomical student-debt levels, which long since crested above $1 trillion. In fact, his administration has made it easier for for-profit colleges to rip off students, and recently scrapped Obama-era regulations that limited rates loan-guarantee agencies can charge people who defaulted on student loans. His budget also proposed cutting $5 billion in higher-education funding for low-income Americans. Perhaps that’s not surprising from a president who just finalized a $25 million settlement stemming from his scam for-profit university.

That’s a financial tragedy for the millions who hold student-loan debt and the students who will matriculate while Trump is president. But Trump’s unwillingness to even motion toward a student-debt plan creates a massive political opening for Democrats.

Senator Bernie Sanders stepped into that breach Monday afternoon, introducing a bill with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Keith Ellison, and several other members of Congress. The College for All Act aims to eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 per year. The bill would make community college tuition-free for all income levels.

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The act would have the government pay 67 percent of tuition subsidies at public colleges and universities, while asking state and tribal governments to pay the other third. Sanders’s office pegs the cost of the legislation at $600 billion, and it would be financed by a tax on Wall Street speculation.

The legislation also weaves in several other progressive higher-education proposals. It ends the federal government’s ability to profit from student loans—any excess revenue would be plowed back into Pell Grants under the legislation. “It is obscene that the United States government is making a profit off the backs of people who are trying to get an education,” said Warren, who has railed against the revenue excesses for years.

It would also allow students to refinance existing loans at low rates, and would cut the government lending rate for new undergraduate borrowers to 1.88 percent.