American students owe $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. The total student loan debt of our country now exceeds all credit card debt; the average student graduating in 2016 from a 4-year college owes $37,172. Combined with 45 years of wage stagnation, rapidly increasing cost-of-living in desirable employment areas, and a workforce that is retiring later, we have saddled an entire generation with a big, ugly economic anchor. Politicians have been talking about this problem for decades, yet we’ve made no real progress. This is why I support tuition-free public colleges and universities, and an immediate effort to relieve the massive hindrance of student debt to our to our young workers. If we want the best workforce in the world, we need to invest in our people, and that’s exactly what I will do in Congress. Here’s what I propose:
Cancel all existing student loan debt.
Make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Germany implemented this last year. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens, and have some of the best education in the world as a result. If other countries can do this, so can the United States of America.
Stop the federal government from making a profit of over $110 billion on student loans. This is morally wrong, and it’s bad economics.
Allow Americans to refinance student loans at today’s low interest rates. It makes no sense that you can get an auto loan today with an interest rate of 2.5%, but millions of college graduates are forced to pay interest rates of 5–7% or more for decades.
Allow students to use need-based financial aid and work study programs to make college debt free. Require public colleges and universities to meet 100% of the financial needs of the lowest-income students. Low-income students would be able to use federal, state and college financial aid to cover room and board, books and living expenses. Triple the federal work study program to build valuable career experience that will help students after they graduate.
Fully paid for by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators. The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy seven years ago. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and today some 40 countries throughout the world have imposed a similar tax including Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, and China. If the taxpayers of this country could bailout Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and universities tuition free and debt free throughout the country.
Reduce the high-stakes nature of standardized tests by basing accountability on multiple measures of a school’s effectiveness. The “test and sanction” strategy is counter productive. It fails to account for the systematic causes of low educational attainment such as poverty, geographical location, and racial prejudice. It also it puts the burden of government failure in education on our teachers. Instead, we must focus on resource equity, and work with our teachers to make sure the students have what they need to succeed.
Allow states to implement innovative systems of assessment that do not rely on standardized tests. Instead, new innovative assessments will empower educators by providing actionable information during the school year that can inform instructional practice.
Maintain federal support for afterschool programs provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.
Invest in wrap-around support services like health, mental health, nutrition and family supports.
Strengthen teachers unions. Teachers are the best advocates for their students and we must empower them to collectively bargain.
Provide affordable public Childcare. We must provide quality affordable childcare to ensure equity in early childhood education.
Abolish Charter Schools. Charter schools redirect funding from public schools and are not held to the same standards of transparency as public schools.