Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington are introducing new legislation Wednesday they say would help address the soaring cost of higher education.
As Sanders explained in a statement shared Wednesday, Sanders called higher education “a right for all” and spoke on the potential impact of the legislation.
“If we are going to have the kind of standard of living that the American people deserve, we need to have the best educated workforce in the world,” Sanders said. “It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money.”
Sanders added that, in the 21st century, a high school education “is no longer good enough.”
The bill, which uses the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force proposal and Biden’s Plan for Education Beyond High School as models, would guarantee tuition-free community college for all students. Students from families earning less than $125,000 annually would be able to attend public colleges and universities both tuition-free and debt-free.
Students from families earning under $125,000 would also be guaranteed tuition-free and debt-free attendance at public and private, non-profit Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
Additionally, the bill includes a yearly $10 billion investment that would cover student support programs at under-funded institutions.
In a separate statement, Rep. Jayapal referenced talks of Biden canceling some student debt, noting that he “can and should” do so immediately. The College for All Act, Jayapal added, further addresses such debt with continued action.
“Congress must ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans to receive a higher education in the first place,” Jayapal said Wednesday. “The College for All Act will free students from a lifetime of debt, invest in working people, and transform higher education across America by making community college free for everyone and eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000.”
Under the College for All Act, the maximum Pell Grant would be doubled to $12,990, which could help many students put some of that money toward living expenses. Grant eligibility would also be expanded to Dreamers.
The bill, a summary of which has been made available here, also boasts a number of co-sponsors. Among them are Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Alex Padilla, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Sen. Edward Markey.
The American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Children’s Defense Fund, the American Federation of Government Employees, and other organizations have also thrown their weight behind the bill.
Notably, the College for All Act would be paid for by the Tax on Wall Street Speculation Act, which was reintroduced by Sanders on Wednesday.
Let’s get this done.