On Wednesday, a group of lawmakers led by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced a new bill to make college education free.
Under the College for All act, students at community colleges and public trade schools would not be required to pay tuition, while students from families making less than $125,000 will be able to attend public four-year colleges and universities, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other minority-serving institutions for free as well.
“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. If we are going to have the kind of standard of living that the American people deserve, we need to have the best educated workforce in the world,” Sanders said in a statement.
The bill also proposes to double the Pell Grant award from $6,495 to $12,990 and allow students to use the funds for additional expenses such as housing.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money,” added Sanders.
Wall Street Funding
To make this possible, Sanders and Jayapal believe that the cost must be shared among the federal government, the state, and Wall Street.
According to the bill summary, the government will shoulder 75 percent of the cost, with states covering the remaining 25 percent. In the event of an economic recession, the government’s share would become 90 percent.
A separate bill drafted by Sanders, the Wall Street Speculation Act, levies a financial transaction tax on Wall Street to finance the free college initiative. The bill is projected to create $2.4 trillion in the next 10 years through taxing stock and bond trades, as well as derivatives transactions.
“Thirteen years ago, the middle class bailed out Wall Street during their time of need, even as the middle class was struggling,” the summary reads. “Now, it is Wall Street’s turn to rebuild the struggling middle class by paying a modest financial transactions tax to make sure that everyone in America who wants to get a higher education can do so without going into debt.”