Education

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a press conference with indebted college graduates about the burden of student debt on May 12, 2014.

In an increasingly competitive global economy, we must ensure every student has the opportunity to pursue quality, affordable higher education. However, families are struggling to keep up with rising tuition costs, which have nearly doubled over the last ten years. Sen. Sanders has worked to expand funding for Pell Grants, and promote an innovative loan forgiveness program by which loans would be forgiven for college graduates who work in public service – including nurses, teachers, and law enforcement officers.

Sen. Sanders is also working to promote “dual enrollment” programs, which allow high school students to take college courses that count toward high school and college graduation. Research has shown that students who participate in dual enrollment programs are more likely to go to college and have more successful academic careers, and that these programs are especially beneficial for low-income and first-generation college students. The Supporting College Success through Dual Enrollment Act, which Sen. Sanders introduced in May, aims to provide all students with access to dual enrollment programs, and would provide funding to offset tuition, books and fees for moderate to low-income students.

“One of the great crises facing our country today is student indebtedness and the high cost of college. It is obscene that millions of working-class families are finding it extremely difficult to send their kids to college. Colleges must control costs and the federal government must provide the necessary assistance so every person in this country – regardless of income – can get a college education.”

- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Early Childhood Education

Research has shown that roughly 80 percent of all brain development occurs before age 3.  Accordingly, Sen. Sanders believes access to quality early learning programs is vitally important.  When the Senate reauthorized the Head Start program in 2007, Sen. Sanders worked closely with teachers, parents, and administrators to make sure that the bill expanded eligibility for Head Start, included increased funding allotments for the program, and provided greater flexibility to use funds for Early Head Start (ages 0-3).

K-12

Sen. Sanders has been a vigorous opponent of the standardized testing regimen put in place by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) because it narrows school curriculum and constrains the development of critical thinking and creativity.  Instead, the Senator supports a system that would promote creative learning by doing away with “fill-in-the-bubble” standardized tests, and instead evaluate students based their understanding of the curriculum and their ability to use it creatively.

Higher Education

In an increasingly competitive global economy, we must ensure every student has the opportunity to pursue quality, affordable higher education. However, families are struggling to keep up with rising tuition costs, which have nearly doubled over the last ten years.  Sen. Sanders has worked to expand funding for Pell Grants, and promote an innovative loan forgiveness program by which loans would be forgiven for college graduates who work in public service – including nurses, teachers, and law enforcement officers.  He believes we must do more to reverse this trend and make a college education affordable and available to all students.  In addition, Senator Sanders was an original co-sponsor and key supporter of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which authorized the most significant expansion of Veterans’ education benefits in more than 50 years.   

Student Loans

For the first time in American history, the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds the amount of credit card debt, totaling more than a trillion dollars.  Two-thirds of college students who graduated in 2010 had outstanding loans, each with an average of $27,152 in debt.  The problem is even more acute in Vermont, where nearly 70 percent of college graduates have student debt, averaging $28,860.

Sen. Sanders believes that at a time when higher education in the United States is far more expensive than in any other country, we must alleviate the burden of student loan debt by guaranteeing affordable loans to students, and allowing graduates to refinance their federal student loans to take advantage of lower interest rates. In the long run, we must overhaul the Higher Education Act to make college affordable for every young person who has the ability and the desire to continue their studies.