Washington, June 24 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) unveiled landmark legislation today to eliminate tuition and fees at all public four-year colleges and universities, as well as make community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs tuition- and fee-free for all. The three lawmakers’ proposal also eliminates all $1.6 trillion in student debt for 45 million Americans.
“This is truly a revolutionary proposal which accomplishes three major goals,” said Sanders. “First, in a highly competitive global economy, it makes certain that all Americans, regardless of income, can get the college education or job training they need to secure decent paying jobs by making public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free and debt-free.”
“Second, in a generation hard hit by the Wall Street crash of 2008,” Sanders said, “it cancels all student debt and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education. Third, it pays for these proposals by implementing a tax on Wall Street speculators. In 2008, the American people bailed out Wall Street. Now, it is Wall Street's turn to help the middle class and working class of this country.”
“There is a crisis in higher education at a time when a postsecondary degree is more important than ever,” said Jayapal. “A college degree should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. 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.”
“There are currently 45 million Americans with student debt,” said Omar. “That’s 45 million people who are being held back from purchasing their first home; 45 million people who may feel that they can’t start a family; 45 million people who have dreams of opening a business or going into public service, but are held back.”
“My bill would end this crisis by cancelling all $1.6 trillion in student loan debt,” Omar said. “This would not only allow Americans struggling with debt pursue their dreams, but would unleash billions of dollars in economic growth—stimulating our entire economy. We can fully fund this with a small tax on Wall Street speculation. The American people bailed out Wall Street. It’s time for Wall Street to bail out American people.”
Under the College for All Act, the average student loan borrower would save about $3,000 a year, and the economy would get a boost of approximately $1 trillion over 10 years, which could be used to buy new homes, cars, and open up small businesses. Student debt is also disproportionately impacting African Americans and Latinos. Twelve years after starting college, for example, the median black borrower owed more than he or she had taken out in the first place.
The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of this bill would be paid for entirely by a tax on Wall Street speculation. During the financial crisis, Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the United States. Now, argue the lawmakers, it’s Wall Street’s turn to help rebuild the disappearing middle class. The members of Congress propose imposing a small Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.5 percent on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives, which would raise up to $2.4 trillion over the next decade. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and some 40 countrieshave already imposed a similar financial transactions tax.
This milestone legislation was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Freedom to Prosper, Social Security Works, Progress America, Progressive Democrats of America, Student Action, People's Action, Debt Collective, the American Medical Student Association, CREDO Action, MoveOn and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE).
Read a fact sheet on College For All here.
Read the legislative text here.
Read a fact sheet on the Inclusive Prosperity Act to raise revenue for the proposal here.