Congressional Democrats, including Senator Padilla of California, launch bill to make college free for many students


As millions of students struggle to pay for the skyrocketing costs of attending college, a group of Democratic lawmakers this week unveiled a plan to offset the cost of higher education for many Americans and end to what they describe as a spiral of debt.

College for All Act would make community colleges and trade schools free to all, while public four-year colleges and universities, as well as non-profit institutions serving minorities such as historically black colleges, would be free to all students whose families earn less than $ 125,000 per year.

On top of that, the proposal aims to double the maximum Pell grant to nearly $ 13,000 for the 2021-2022 school year, and to expand eligibility to “Dreamers” – students who are affected by the DREAM Act or the deferred action program for the arrival of children. .

And, to help millions of low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities, the bill triples federal TRIO and doubles GEAR funding.

A summary of the invoice touts it as “the most substantial expansion of higher education” since the Higher Education Act of 1965 was enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“It would make transformative and unprecedented investments in higher education” and “would allow students from families earning less than $ 125,000 a year to attend university without fear of grappling with student loan debt.” , indicates the summary.

The plan would be funded by new taxes on Wall Street speculation – including stock transactions, bonds and derivatives – something that would bring in up to $ 2.4 million over the next decade.

About 75% of the cost of eliminating tuition and fees in public institutions would be borne by the federal government, with the states taking the remaining share.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education every year, not because they are not qualified, but because their families do not have enough money,” Sanders said. “It is a long time ago to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free for working families.”

More than half a dozen Democrats in the Senate co-sponsor the legislation, including California Senator Alex Padilla.

“As a first generation student, I know the barriers far too many people face in accessing quality and affordable higher education.” Padilla said. “Every American deserves a chance to achieve the American Dream without having to make the impossible choice of getting a degree or being in debt for life.”

For many, the financial burden of higher education lasts long after graduation. More than 42 million Americans hold federal student loans of a combined $ 1.5 trillion, according to Department of Education data. And about 9 million student loan borrowers are in default on their federal loans.

The tuition-free college proposal comes amid a push by lawmakers to write off some student debt. In February, Padilla was among the cosponsors of a resolution calling on President Joe Biden to write off up to $ 50,000 in student loans for federal borrowers through executive action.

Biden has previously reported that he supports up to $ 10,000 in student loan forgiveness per borrower, and his administration is examining whether the president can use his authority to take action to ease student debt without help from Congress.

Calls for debt cancellation have escalated after years of rising tuition fees that have helped inflate national student debt.

In an effort to provide relief shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Trump administration suspended federal student loan payments and set interest rates at 0%. When he took office in January, Biden extended the moratorium at least until the end of September.

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