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Press release/statement

Demos Applauds Introduction of the Debt-Free College Act

Bill would ensure all students have access to an affordable college education

New York, NY – Today, members of the House and Senate introduced the Debt-Free College Act, a bill that gives students the opportunity to graduate from a public 2- or 4-year college without having to take on any debt. Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and in the House by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and cosponsored by over 30 members of Congress, the bill would create a federal-state partnership that re-invests federal funds in public higher education, in exchange for a state commitment to help students pay for the full costs of attendance without having to take on debt. In addition to prioritizing working-class students at public colleges, the bill also extends a new commitment to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), provides DREAMers with much-needed federal financial aid eligibility, and restores financial aid eligibility for those with non-violent drug offenses. In response, Mark Huelsman, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos, issued the following statement:

The Debt-Free College Act is a bold new investment in our nation’s public higher education system. We applaud Senator Schatz, Rep. Pocan, and the dozens of other lawmakers standing up for our country’s students and families. At the end of the day, we all benefit when students can pursue their dreams without fear of taking on crushing debt. Working your way through school should no longer be a pipe dream, and we urge the U.S. House and Senate to work to advance this important legislation and restore the promise of higher education for all students.” 

According to a recent poll commissioned by Demos, a majority of Americans believe that we should invest more in public colleges to make them more accessible for all young people. The key findings of the research include: 

  • 92 percent of people think student debt is a serious problem in America.
  • 78 percent of respondents, including 90 percent of young people, 86 percent of African Americans, 84 percent of Latinos, and 91 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, favor a policy that would ensure all students can graduate from public 2- and 4-year colleges without debt.
  • Over 7 in 10 voters support policies that provide financial aid to low-income students and make public 2- and 4-year colleges tuition-free for all households.
  • People see the cost of attending as the largest barrier to completing education after high school. The overwhelming majority (75 percent) of respondents cite the cost of attending as the most important or second most important barrier to completing higher education.

Since 2006, Demos has been a leader in advancing policy solutions to address the college debt crisis facing America’s students. After years of studying the trends in funding for higher education at the state level, Demos released a policy blueprint in 2014, titled The Affordable College Compact, under the leadership of Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Research. For the first time, the compact outlined a detailed approach to achieve debt-free college through federal-state partnerships, with the goal of making public higher education more affordable for all students.