Checklist for Debt-Free College Proposals

This checklist was created in partnership with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Debt-free college means all students in America should be able graduate without debt. This big idea would expand economic opportunity, expand America's economy, and improve quality of life for millions of people. 

Debt-free college is a result that can be achieved through multiple means.

Below is a checklist that Demos and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee will use to judge any plan by presidential candidates or Congress.

A true debt-free college plan should affirmatively check all of these boxes:

  • Do all undergraduate students have access to debt-free college?
  • Does debt-free college apply to all undergraduate public institutions?
  • Does debt-free college apply to all college costs, not just tuition?
  • Does the “debt-free college” plan facilitate all students having equal access to high-quality public education -- i.e. incentivizing investment in instruction and student support services.
  • Does the formula used to calculate "debt-free" avoid academic hardship for students and economic hardship for everyday families? (i.e. Low-income students are not forced to hurt their academic performance by working excessive hours while wealthier students study. Middle-class families are not assumed to have savings and disposable cash they do not truly have.) 
  • Is aid distributed progressively -- investing most in those who may not attend or complete college, or not maximize their participation in the economy after college, due to student debt?

The G.I. Bill resulted in a 7-to-1 return on investment for our economy. By unshackling students from crushing debt -- freeing them to start the next Google, start a small business, or buy a first home -- we will see similar economic expansion. Quality of life will also be improved for millions of Americans who will be more able to get married, enter the career they are passionate about, or even do something as simple as moving out of their parents' home.

That's why a national poll by the Progressive Change Institute in January 2015 showed this issue is popular by 71% to 19% -- with majorities among Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters. (It was also very motivational to those who didn't vote in 2014.)

Over 400,000 people have now signed the petition circulated by the PCCC, Democracy for America, the United States Student Association, Young Invincibles, Working Families Party, Campaign For America’s Future, MoveOn, Credo Action, Daily Kos, and the Courage Campaign.

(Cross posted at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee)