San­ders Calls for Higher Ed Fund­ing Revo­lu­tion

Pro­poses Two Years Tu­ition Free at Public Col­leges

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

Sen.Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), speak­ing at John­son State Col­lege, called for a “revo­lu­tion” in the way higher ed­u­ca­tion is funded in the United States. He pro­posed tu­ition-free cour­ses for fresh­men and sopho­mores at all public col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. He also called for re­forms in fed­eral stu­dent loans. “In a highly com­pet­i­tive global econ­omy we need the best-ed­u­cated work­force pos­si­ble. Yet, be­cause of the high cost of higher ed­u­ca­tion, many bright young peo­ple can no longer af­ford to go to col­lege and mil­lions of oth­ers are leav­ing school sad­dled with debt. This is ab­surd. This is ab­so­lutely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to our ef­forts to cre­ate a strong econ­omy,” San­ders said.

San­ders noted that the U.S. is lag­ging be­hind coun­tries where col­lege is free. Once the world leader in the per­cent­age of peo­ple with col­lege diplo­mas, the United States now ranks 12th in­ter­na­tion­ally. Of those Amer­i­can stu­dents who did grad­u­ate in the class of 2012, seven in 10 were in debt. The na­tional av­er­age was $28,400 per bor­rower, ac­cord­ing to The Project on Stu­dent Debt. In Ver­mont, the av­er­age debt was $27,318. At John­son State, the av­er­age debt for a stu­dent in the class of 2013 was $31,595.

“We need a revo­lu­tion in the way higher ed­u­ca­tion is funded,” San­ders said. “In the United States, all peo­ple who have the de­sire and the abil­ity should be able, in this chang­ing econ­omy, to re­ceive all the ed­u­ca­tion they need re­gard­less of their in­come. This must be done not only to rebuild the dis­ap­pear­ing mid­dle class but to make us com­pet­i­tive in the global econ­omy.”

San­ders wel­comed Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s pro­posal to make com­mu­nity col­lege free, but the se­na­tor said we must go fur­ther. San­ders called for no tu­ition for the first two years at any public col­lege or uni­ver­sity.

He also sug­gested ty­ing in­creased fed­eral fund­ing to greater state sup­port for higher ed­u­ca­tion. A new study by the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice found tu­itions have gone up while state sup­port has de­clined. An $11.5 bil­lion fed­eral in­vest­ment matched dollar-for-dollar by states could re­duce col­lege costs by one-third, he said.

“We must fun­da­men­tally re­struc­ture our stu­dent loan pro­gram. It makes no sense that stu­dents and their par­ents are forced to pay in­ter­est rates for higher ed­u­ca­tion loans that are much higher than they pay for car loans or hous­ing mort­gages. We must also end the prac­tice of the gov­ern­ment mak­ing $127 bil­lion over the next decade in prof­its from stu­dent loans,” San­ders said.

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