Today, Sec. Hillary Clinton will announce her plan to return to debt-free public college for future students and relieve the burden for existing borrowers. Tamara Draut, Demos Vice President of Policy and Research, released the following statement:
“Sec. Hillary Clinton just released a bold plan to return the United States to debt-free public college for future students, and relieve the burden for existing borrowers. Her proposal, the New College Compact, is one of the most substantial and progressive plans any policymaker has ever put forth to combat our student debt crisis, and a giant step forward toward the goal of debt-free college.
“With the plan, millions of America’s working families will have access to debt-free public college at both two- and four-year institutions. They would not have to borrow for tuition, fees and books, and most working- and middle-class students could cover the rest of the costs using Pell grants and a summer job. For the millions of students who worry daily about how to buy books or cover other essentials, this is a tremendous and life-changing relief. For all too many, it’s the difference between completing their education and dropping out with a lifetime of crippling debt.
“Sec. Clinton’s plan would stem the number one cause of rising college costs and student debt—the collapse in state funding of higher education—by requiring states to reinvest as a precursor of receiving federal aid, and with continual reinvestment, many middle-class families will be able to graduate without taking on debt. By tripling Americorps and expanding national service, many more students, regardless of income, will have another debt-free pathway through higher education. And it would help expand opportunities to students of color by increasing funding to HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and limit the exploitative practices of predatory institutions that have built a business model around the exploitation of students of color, who have historically carried the heaviest debts.
“Further, though Sec. Clinton’s plan would transform our current higher education system, it is not unprecedented. For generations, policymakers recognized higher education as a necessary public good and adequately funded the public higher education system. But over the past few decades, public officials have strayed from this mission, drastically slashing state spending per-student. Now, nearly three-in-four graduates take on debt for a degree, and average debt for those who attain a bachelor’s degree has reached $30,000.
“Demos research has shown that debt-free college is not just a liberal dream, but a wholly achievable goal through the right mix of incentives for states, colleges, and students. In our Affordable College Compact and in a joint paper with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), we have outlined how all public universities and colleges can achieve debt-free education through federal aid to states, increased aid to students, and innovation to reduce the underlying costs of college.
“Our moment is now. A return to debt-free public college would signal that your family’s economic circumstance does not dictate your destiny and would rightly provide today’s students, the most diverse our nation has ever seen, with the same support previous generations enjoyed. We encourage Congressional leaders and other candidates to build on this plan and others like it, to achieve the goal that every student in the United States has a pathway to a high quality, debt-free public college degree.”