Sanders’ education plan could save our generation


Vermont Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd at the Village Leadership Academy during a campaign stop in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS)


American college students, including those at UK, face mounting levels of student loan debt that could economically cripple an entire generation. Much like the housing bubble that was part of the economic collapse in 2008, the total debt of college students could lead us toward another economic disaster.

The average college student has accumulated about $30,000 in debt, with the total amount of debt resting at about $1.3 trillion. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has proposed following the European model and making college publicly funded for undergraduates.

Last year, Sanders proposed the “College For All Act,” which would make college tuition free at four-year public universities and colleges by imposing a “Robin Hood tax” on Wall Street. It would put a speculation fee on investment houses and hedge funds, as well as a 0.5 percent speculation fee on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1 percent fee on bonds and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives.

Economist Jared Bernstein’s research shows that the plan could raise hundreds of billions of dollars every year, and average working and middle-class Americans would not feel the brunt of such a speculation tax. The legislation would give $47 billion per year to states, which are responsible for covering 33 percent of the cost of tuition at public universities and colleges. The federal government would cover the other 67 percent.

Detractors will claim that such a plan is unaffordable, even though data tends to suggest the opposite. For one, such policies only pay for tuition. Students will still need to pay for books, room and board, living expenses and other living expenses. College is expensive enough — even without a debt equivalent to a house mortgage.

The idea of publicly funded education is not new in this country, but skyrocketing tuition costs and student loan interest rates are relatively new phenomena. The GI Bill of Rights provided opportunities for more than 3 million Americans to receive a college education, which contributed to the economic development of that generation.

Sanders’ plan is not an invasive government robbery of working and middle-class Americans. It is a minuscule, reasonable speculation tax on Wall Street activity. The time has come for such a plan to become official public policy. Wall Street can afford it, and American students deserve it.

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