Senator Bernie Sanders just finished laying out his plan for College for All. As Senator Sanders' former Chief of Staff, I recognize how close the issue of college affordability is to his heart.
As a professor at a public university, I am deeply familiar with the fact that every year far too many students take on thousands of dollars in debt. The high bar of college costs is unjust, especially since it creates a barrier for the next generation of Americans who need higher education to compete in a global economy. It is my firm belief, one that I share with Senator Sanders and Our Revolution, that access to a tuition-free public college education should be a right of all Americans.
Can you imagine having to drop out of college because of the burden of overwhelming debt? This happens far, far too often. The high cost of a college education keeps hundreds of thousands of bright young people from enrolling in college every year, while the countries we are competing with—Germany, France, Sweden and others—guarantee a public college education tuition-free.
Equally bad is that millions of Americans—students and former students—are loaded down with college loan debt. Many people do not know that student debt cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy, which means that millions of Americans are doomed to pay off onerous student debt throughout much of their working lives.
It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world. Today, student debt totals over $1.5 trillion, keeping people saddled with that debt from buying a home or car, or building the funds necessary to send their own children to college, or saving for retirement.
Senator Sanders' plan would require the federal government to pay for two-thirds of the cost of public college tuition, with only one-third coming from the states. This new program would not increase the federal deficit since its entire cost will be covered by a tax on those who invest in stocks, bonds, and derivatives.
A generation ago, people could secure a good-paying job with a high school diploma. The world has changed: we need to expand the right to publicly supported K-12 education to include universal pre-kindergarten and public college.