Academics endorse College for All Act, urge Congress to pass it
One hundred experts in the fields of law, economics, and education wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress in support of the College for All Act, introduced earlier this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The groundbreaking legislation guarantees free public college and trade school for all while cancelling all $1.6 trillion in student debt.
“Between 1964 and 2019, the average annual cost of attending a four-year public college or university soared by an unimaginable 3,819 percent,” the scholars wrote. “By failing to adequately invest in higher education, governments have shifted a greater share of the financial burden onto those trying to advance their studies.”
“In the face of this crisis, nothing short of a complete overhaul of our public higher education system will suffice. We must treat education as the public good that it is,” the academics added. “This means ‘hitting the ‘reset button’ on student loan debt by cancelling the entire outstanding amount, so that some 45 million Americans and their loved ones are no longer trapped by the policy failures of the past.”
“To some,” the experts wrote, “this will appear too radical. To us, it is the bold solution we need. It is high time we enacted policies that benefit the real job creators—the ones on Main Street.” They conclude, “The time has come to cancel student loan debt and to allow future generations to graduate from college debt free.”
Senator Sanders welcomed the academics’ letter. “These scholars are saying what millions of young people already know from their own experience: the Wall Street crash of 2008 devastated the economic prospects of an entire generation,” Sanders said. “If we do not act boldly and decisively, these young people will face lower living standards than those their parents enjoyed. Our College for All Act will boost our economy and offer real opportunity for our people. And the cost will be borne entirely by speculators on Wall Street.”
“These academics confirm that a college degree should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” said Rep. Jayapal. “What’s more, our student debt crisis is oppressing borrowers of color, shutting them out from the benefits that American higher education can and should offer. I am so proud to stand with my colleagues and introduce this bold package of legislation to reinvest in our nation’s future. We are committed to restoring freedom to students, workers and families – freedom from the student debt that is holding them back.”
“Economists understand that this bill would not only allow Americans struggling with debt pursue their dreams, but would unleash billions of dollars in economic growth—stimulating our entire economy,” said Rep. Omar, applauding the scholars’ endorsement.
The academics calculated that the cancellation of student debt would create up to a million new jobs annually, reduce the racial wealth gap, boost consumer spending, and fuel new business creation.
The College for All Act cancels all student debt, including undergraduate and graduate debt. The lawmakers propose paying for this entirely through a small tax on high-frequency trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives on Wall Street, which would raise $2.4 trillion over ten years. Economists estimate that the full amount of this tax would be borne by the financial industry, not individual holders of stock or pension funds.
In addition to cancelling student loan debt, the legislation eliminates tuition and fees at all public four-year colleges and universities, as well as making community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs tuition- and fee-free for all. The College for All Act caps student-loan interest rates at no higher than what the federal government pays for its debt—1.88 percent, compared to current student-loan interest rates as high as 8.5 percent.
States participating in the federal partnership proposed by Sanders, Jayapal and Omar would be required to demonstrate that their public colleges and universities are curbing tuition and fee increases for all students, including out-of-state students and graduate students.
- Read the academics’ letter here.
- Read a fact sheet on the College for All Act here.
- Read the bill text for S. 1947 College for All Act here.
- Watch a Facebook Q&A with Sanders, Jayapal and Omar here.