Sanders: Government should make tuition free for two years

Sanders: Government should make tuition free for two years

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE (I-Vt.) on Thursday night will call for the federal and state governments to each invest $18 billion per year in public colleges and universities in order to make college tuition free for two years.

Sanders will make the remarks during a visit to Iowa, the state that kicks off the 2016 presidential primary cycle. The comments will expand on a proposal he first unveiled earlier this week.

“The only way to solve the college affordability crisis in the United States is to renew our society’s commitment to investing in educational opportunities for our young people,” he will say at the University of Iowa, according to prepared remarks.

In 2013, students and their families had to pay $65 billion in tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, Sanders says.

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If the federal government invests $18 billion in public higher education, and states match that amount dollar-for-dollar, Sanders said college tuition could be cut by more than half. 

“As a nation, we must shift our priorities to ensure every student, regardless of their family’s economic situation, can get a college education without being forced to take on a crushing debt that will follow them for years and years,” he said.  

Sanders, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, called for a “revolution” in higher education funding earlier this week that would involve free tuition for freshmen and sophomores at public schools.

He notes that $18 billion is not much compared to other government spending, arguing that it’s only a fraction of the amount requested for the Pentagon’s budget.

Sanders also says public university systems, such as the City University of New York and the University of California, didn’t begin charging tuition until a few decades ago. Countries such as Austria, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Scotland and Sweden don’t charge tuition for their public universities, Sanders says, and tuition at Canadian schools is minuscule compared to the U.S.

Sanders also proposes to lower interest on student debt by ending the Department of Education’s practice of earning large profits from college loans.

“Today’s borrowers should be able to refinance their student loans at much lower interest rates,” he says. “This will allow millions of people to pay off their debt sooner, and have more money to buy a car, buy a house, or invest in their own children’s future education.”