Dems get behind plan for debt-free college

Dems get behind plan for debt-free college

Support for debt-free college education is rising among Democrats who believe that reversing spiraling costs would be both good policy and a political winner.

On Wednesday, nine more Democratic senators came out in support of a resolution on the topic that originated with Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Trump moves to ease Obama water rule | EPA document contradicts agency over water rule data| Manchin to be top Dem on Senate Energy panel Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and liberal heroine Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll Dems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws MORE (D-Mass.).

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The resolution deals in broad strokes rather than granular details. It calls upon the federal government to provide more support to states, which can then “make increased investments in higher education that will result in lower tuition and costs for students.” It also backs increased financial aid for students — in contrast to the House GOP’s recent budget plan that would freeze Pell grants at their current level — as well as efforts to bend the cost curve of college education downward.

The nine Democrats who announced their support for the measure Wednesday are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerCalifornia AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle Fox's Ingraham transitioning longtime radio show to podcast MORE (Calif.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenKamala Harris to keep seat on Judiciary Committee Report says ex-CBS executive Les Moonves 'deliberately lied' to investigators about allegations Norm Coleman: ‘I do believe’ I beat Al Franken in 2008 MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandPavlich: The media gets woke on the Women’s March Warren has contacted 100 people in early 2020 primary states: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoRubio: ‘I don’t know’ if Nauert has 'detailed knowledge' to succeed as UN ambassador Overnight Defense: Nauert tapped for UN envoy | Trump teases changes to Joint Chiefs of Staff | Trump knocks Tillerson as 'dumb as a rock' | Scathing report details Air Force failures before Texas shooting Dem senator slams Nauert's lack of 'qualifications' for UN ambassador MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyLobbying World Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Mattis: Investigation into killing of Khashoggi is ongoing MORE (Mass.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Nauert tapped for UN envoy | Trump teases changes to Joint Chiefs of Staff | Trump knocks Tillerson as 'dumb as a rock' | Scathing report details Air Force failures before Texas shooting New Hampshire's secretary of state narrowly holds seat Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst MORE (N.H.) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCoal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee The Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight MORE (Mich.).

Their names bring to 20 the total number of Senate Democrats who support the measure, which was introduced only a month ago.

Of the nine newest backers, only Blumenthal is up for reelection in 2016, and he is not expected to face a serious challenge.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCoal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE (I-Vt.), a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, has been a longtime advocate of reducing the costs of college education. Just last week, he introduced his own bill to eliminate tuition fees for four-year degrees at public colleges and universities. 

Under Sanders’s measure, $70 billion per year would be provided to offset costs, two-thirds of which would come from the federal government and one-third from the states. 

Sanders would fund the federal contribution to that $70 billion figure through the creation of a new tax on Wall Street transactions by “investment houses, hedge funds and other speculators.”

In a statement announcing his support of the separate Schatz-Schumer-Warren measure, Franken said, “The burden of student loan debt is a real pocketbook issue for middle-class Americans, and it’s holding back our economy.” 

Schumer, seeking to further the idea that momentum is building behind the issue, said that “when students graduate with loads of debt, the ripple effects are endless. ...When it comes to making college affordable, I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea.”

Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), one of the liberal groups driving support for the measure, told The Hill that “the beauty of debt-free college is that it is a game-changing policy in millions of people’s lives and it is a tremendous winner for Democrats with voters. Our goal is to have it be a central campaign issue in 2016. When voters go to the polling booth, we want them to be thinking about debt-free college as one of the main things.”

The PCCC also notes that several of the senators declaring their support for debt-free college are allied with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Steve King asks Google CEO for names of employees to see if they're liberals O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE, including Franken, Stabenow and Hirono, all of whom have endorsed her bid for the presidency. 

Earlier this month, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook seemed to imply Clinton would support the idea of debt-free college, but the front-runner’s own words have been a little more nebulous. 

“We have to deal with the indebtedness — to try to move forward making college as debt-free as possible,” she said in Iowa on May 18.

Several likely Republican candidates have also talked about the issue of student debt, although they have tended to shy away from specific policy proposals. Although, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPolitifact names conspiracies about Parkland students as 2018's 'lie of the year' Republicans skeptical of Trump’s plan to have military build the wall Alex Jones heckles Google CEO heading into House hearing MORE (R-Fla.) worked with Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks MORE (D-Va.) on a plan that would have simplified the repayment of student loans. The legislation, introduced last year, has not moved forward.