More than 100 academics endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’s tuition-free college and debt cancellation proposal on Wednesday, hailing the plan as the kind of ambitious solution that is needed to tackle soaring higher education costs and provide relief to the millions of Americans drowning in student loans.
In a letter (pdf) to Congress first obtained by The American Prospect, a mix of education, economic, and legal experts said Sanders’s College for All Act “would benefit the entire economy, improving life not only for those who will feel immediate relief as borrowers, current students, and their loved ones.”
“We must treat education as the public good that it is. That means making public colleges and universities tuition-free, just as public K-12 schools are today. It also means hitting the ‘reset button’ on student loan debt.”
“To some, this will appear too radical. To us, it is the bold solution we need,” the academics said of the bill, which Sanders—a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate—introduced in the Senate Monday alongside Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who unveiled similar legislation in the House.
The group of experts—which included Columbia University economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton, and Ohio University public affairs professor Darrick Hamilton—said the “unimaginable 3,819 percent” rise in the annual cost of attending a four-year public college over the past five decades calls for immediate and far-reaching government action.
“While it did not begin in 2008, the student debt problem grew significantly in the decade following the financial crisis, as millions of young people graduated into an economy that was spiraling into the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression,” the academics wrote. “In the face of this crisis, nothing short of a complete overhaul of our public higher education system will suffice. We must treat education as the public good that it is.”
As Common Dreams reported on Monday, Sanders’s plan would wipe out the $1.6 trillion of student loan debt that is held by 45 million Americans.
To finance his legislation, Sanders proposed a new tax on speculative Wall Street transactions.
In a statement on Thursday, Sanders thanked the academics for backing his legislation.
“These scholars are saying what millions of young people already know from their own experience: the Wall Street crash of 2008 devastated the economic prospects of an entire generation,” Sanders said. “If we do not act boldly and decisively, these young people will face lower living standards than their parents enjoyed. Our College for All Act will boost our economy and offer real opportunity for our people. And the cost will be borne entirely by speculators on Wall Street.”
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Read the full letter: