Sen. Bernard Sanders on Wednesday revived a proposal to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and pressed President Biden to include it in his massive infrastructure plan, The Washington Times has learned.
The free-college benefit would cost about $700 billion and put Mr. Sanders, an avowed socialist, and other far-left lawmakers on a collision course with Mr. Biden.
Mr. Biden is expected to stop short of his campaign promises of tuition-free public colleges and universities, limiting government-paid tuition to community colleges. That plan is slated to be part of a second phase of the Biden infrastructure plan focused on “human infrastructure.”
Mr. Biden’s campaign promise for tuition-free public colleges and universities was included in a joint policy proposal the Biden campaign worked out with Mr. Sanders, who also ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. The joint proposal aimed to convince Sanders voters to back Mr. Biden.
Mr. Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have now reintroduced the College for All Act that would make all community colleges tuition-free and eliminate tuition at public four-year colleges and universities for students whose families make $125,000 a year or less.
“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” said Mr. Sanders, Vermont independent. “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. 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.”
Ms. Jayapal urged Mr. Biden to cancel student debt that people now owe but noted that would not do much good for students who would be racking up more debt to go to college unless it is made free.
“While President Biden can and should immediately cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, Congress must ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans to receive a higher education in the first place,” Ms. Jayapal said.
Making many colleges free would cost $683 billion over the next decade, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The idea has been criticized by conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. They say that if tuition is replaced by government funding, then it would inevitably mean colleges will be underfunded and have to cut back on students being able to study what they want. The federal government could also dictate what’s taught on already liberal campuses.
The idea was blasted by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on her way out the door as Mr. Biden prepared to take over.
“I hope you also reject misguided calls to make college ‘free,’” she wrote in a farewell letter to congressional leaders on Jan. 5.
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