Chair, Progress For All
With each passing year, higher education is becoming more unaffordable. As a law professor for more than two decades, I’ve seen first hand the growing student debt burden on this generation. Presently, 41 million Americans now owe a staggering $1.3 trillion in federal student loans – even more than credit card debt. While Wall Street banks have borrowed from the Federal Reserve at interest rates of less than one percent, I’ve seen so many young men and women still paying more than 7 percent on their student loans.
Today our young people are being forced to make untenable choices: going to college and taking on mountains of debt, or forgoing the college degree to work part-time or in minimum wage jobs that won’t allow them to build a real future. That choice hurts not only our young people but our families, our communities and our economy.
I believe that young people – especially in a country as rich as ours – should not have to mortgage themselves to get an education. That’s why we at Progress For All will be pushing new legislation introduced this week to ensure that all Americans are offered a tuition free education.
I hope you will also speak up for the “College For All Act,” which was introduced in the Senate by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and in the House by newly elected Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who pledged during her election to introduce this very legislation.
The bill proposes to eliminate tuition at public four-year colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 per year. And it would make community college tuition free for all students. The bill would also eliminate the government’s ability to profit off student loans by cutting interest rates for undergrads to 1.88 percent. The federal government should not be making more than $30 billion a year off the backs of students.
Last month, President Trump rolled back an Obama-era guidance that had prevented student loan companies from charging up to 16 percent interest rates and huge fees. Clearly, this will only make matters worse for so many struggling students.
During my own campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I endorsed tuition free higher education and I said we should pay for this by imposing a small turnover tax on Wall Street transactions. That’s exactly what Bernie’s bill would do! It authorizes a speculation fee of about 0.5 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bond trades and 0.005 percent on derivatives transactions. After trillions of dollars in Federal Reserve and taxpayer support for these financial markets in the wake of their collapse in 2008, such tiny turnover taxes are the least the financial sector can do to repair the damage it’s already done to this generation.
At Progress For All we will continue to fight for tuition free higher education for all Americans. The G.I. Bill provided free tuition and living stipends for my father’s generation after World War II. Many other countries in Europe and in the so-called less developed world have been providing this to their own citizens for years. We must demand nothing less right here in the United States in our own time.