Bernie Sanders has spoken of tuition-free college before, but as of today, he’s promised to take the proposal further: it’s no longer just an idea, it’s a piece of legislation that will be introduced officially this week. The text of the bill isn’t available yet, but Sanders has spoken about what he hopes to accomplish.
An April press release on Senator Sanders’ website describes his plan to call for tuition-free college, and to reform the student loan process.
“He called for a return to the days when all young Americans willing to work hard and study hard could pursue a college degree. In 1965, he said, the average tuition at a four-year public university was $243. Over the last decade, however, tuition at 4-year public colleges and universities rose by 50 percent. State governments have slashed support for higher education and the burden has shifted to students and their parents.”
In fact, Randal Olson, a self-styled “data tinkerer,” worked the numbers.
“In 1987, a year of public university cost about 400 hours of minimum-wage work — or fewer than 8 hours per week year-round, or ten weeks full-time.
By 2000, a year of higher education was worth about 600 hours at minimum wage — 12 hours per week year-round, or about 15 weeks full-time.
At its peak, in 2007, that year of learning was worth nearly 1000 hours of minimum wage labor — over 19 hours per week year-round, or 25 weeks full-time. That’s either 19 hours per week while also keeping up with classes and homework, or half the year at a fulltime job — just to pay for tuition, not including any living expenses.”
Now, according to Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders, who is aiming for the White House, will officially introduce his bill on Tuesday.
The immediate response will surely be, “Nothing is free! Somebody’s paying for it!” but Sanders isn’t claiming that college will be free — only that the cost won’t be in up-front tuition. Certainly, the costs will come back in taxes — but so will the benefits of an educated populace that can function in a globally competitive market, against grads from European countries who don’t leave college already burdened with immense debt.
“Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people.”
Sanders says the bill also includes provisions to lower interest rates on student loans, and reduce student debt overall. He has not said if, or how, this will affect those already suffering under student loan debt. He has, however, already worked on student loan debt forgiveness bills.
Bernie Sanders’ bill will presumably, like President Obama’s similar proposal, only affect public colleges, not private ones.
[Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images]