The debt-free college initiative is based on a plan sketched out by liberal think tank Demos. It calls for the federal government to award grants to states that increase spending on higher education and increase need-based grant aid. That way, fewer students would have to take on high debt loads to attend public colleges.
Mark Huelsman, senior policy analyst at Demos, called the plan “a return to the promise of higher education as a public good.” He said it is the sort of big idea, much like universal health care, that’s built for a presidential campaign, the grounds to test out a platform that could shape future policy.
Building on the Demos plan, Sanders introduced a bill last week for free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. He would have states pony up $1 for every $2 the federal government invests in higher education. The federal share of the money would come from taxing transactions by hedge funds, investment houses and other Wall Street firms. All told, the plan would cost $70 billion a year.