College for All Act: The ambitious goals of Bernie Sanders

Daniel McFarland, Columnist

For many college students, the weight and pressure of debt has now become commonplace. According to U.S. News, the average student loan debt is now $30,000, and that number continues to increase.

The interest rates of student loans are also staggeringly high – much higher than loans for cars, houses, and businesses – and for many, college is not even a possibility due to the cost.

While the costs of higher education have risen exponentially (by more than 538 percent since 1985, according to Bloomberg Business), its value has deceased: a college degree is now considered the new high school diploma.

When it comes to higher education reform, one presidential candidate comes to mind. In his College for All Act, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) outlines his plan to not only reform, but to revolutionize higher education by eliminating undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities.

Sanders’ plan is ambitious to say the least, and both supporters and critics want to know how making college tuition free for students would be done and who would pay for it.

Sanders claims that the federal government would pay 67 percent of the costs, while the other 33 percent would be the responsibility of state governments.

Tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $75 billion per year, but according to Sanders these costs could easily be covered by imposing a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street, which he states could have the potential to raise billions more each year.

In addition to free tuition, Sanders want to reform student loans by cutting interest rates by at least half. Also, borrowers would be able to refinance their loans based on interest rates available to current students. The application process for student aid would also be simplified by eliminating the requirement that students reapply for financial aid each year.

Supporters of Sanders and even his critics may disagree on the effects of the College for All Act and whether or not Sanders would be capable of overhauling the higher education system. But perhaps they both agree that something has to be done. Many European countries already have systems in place that makes college tuition free.

Sanders states that it is absurd that the only factor in deciding higher education for many prospective students is financial capability: “Every person in this country who has the ability should be able to get a college degree regardless of the income of their families, which means, in my view, making public colleges and universities tuition-free.”

The goal of free tuition would also have the potential to improve the economy. With high levels of debt and high interest rates, it really financially constrains people.

Instead of sending money to student loan companies and the federal government, that money could go back into the economy, with purchases like houses, cars, and investments.

The high interest rates are difficult to keep up with, and if college graduates ever want to get out of debt, they would have make more than the minimum monthly payment. This hurts the economy and certainly does not benefit overall society.

Bernie Sanders’ idea of higher education reform serves as a main focus in his campaign. Sanders states that his ambitious plan will “provide opportunity to hundreds of thousands of people who today do not have that opportunity. We will make the United States far more competitive in the global economy than we are right now.”

For Sanders, it is not even an opinion anymore that higher education needs fixing, but a fact to which he, unlike other candidates, is committed to fight for.