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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) unveiled landmark legislation Monday to eliminate tuition and fees at all public US 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 would eliminate all $1.6 trillion in student debt for 45 million Americans.
“This is truly a revolutionary proposal which accomplishes three major goals,” said Sanders, one of the leading candidates among 25 seeking the Democratic nomination for president. “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.”
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, the legislation’s sponsors said. Student debt is also disproportionately impacting African Americans and Latinos, according to the three legislators. Twelve years after starting college, for example, the median black borrower owed more than he or she had taken out in the first place, they said.
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 backing the legislation 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 countries have already imposed a similar financial transactions tax, the lawmakers said.
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 Students Association, CREDO Action, and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE).
Read a fact sheet on College For All here.