Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg participate in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Declaring 'Buttigieg Is Wrong,' Bernie Sanders Makes Case for Tuition-Free Public College and Universal Programs

"I happen to believe that when you talk about programs like Social Security, like healthcare, like higher education, they should be universal."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders late Thursday directly confronted fellow Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's recent attacks on the idea of tuition-free public college and made a broader case for universal programs funded by higher taxes on the rich over means-tested alternatives.

"You pay for it by raising revenue from the very rich, but then you say in a very simple way that any person who wants a higher education, college, trade school, should be able to do it."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"I say Buttigieg is wrong on both counts," Sanders said in an appearance on MSNBC when asked about the South Bend, Indiana mayor's criticism of free public college as elitist and regressive.

Tackling Buttigieg's argument that tuition-free public college neglects those who may not want to attend a public college or university, the senator from Vermont said, "Of course, when we talk about making higher education—public colleges and universities—tuition-free, we mean not only college but we mean trade schools as well."

"There are millions of good jobs out there in construction and all kinds of areas, where people are good at working with their hands, they don't want to go to college, and of course we are going to make tuition free for those people," Sanders told MSNBC's Chris Hayes.

Watch:

The senator went on to address Buttigieg's claim that making public colleges and universities tuition-free would be wrongheaded because it would allow "the kids of millionaires" to benefit.

Sanders responded:

I'm very glad that Mr. Buttigieg is worried that I have been too easy on upper-income people and the millionaires and billionaires, that I'm gonna allow their kids to go to public colleges and universities—just, by the way, as they do go to public schools right now. Trump's kids can go to any public school, elementary school, high school in the country "tuition-free."

But the point is, I happen to believe that when you talk about programs like Social Security, like healthcare, like higher education, they should be universal. The way you pay for them, and the way I do it, not the way Buttigieg does it, is I do demand that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, that the very rich will start paying their fair share of taxes, as will corporate America.

"You pay for it by raising revenue from the very rich," Sanders continued, "but then you say in a very simple way that any person who wants a higher education, college, trade school, should be able to do it."

Buttigieg's attacks on proposals to make public colleges and universities tuition-free began last week with an Iowa ad that claimed universal and free public college is unrealistic and would alienate "half the country."

Contrary to plans released by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which would make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all regardless of income, Buttigieg's proposal (pdf) would make a public college education tuition-free only for households earning up to $100,000 per year.

Progressives were quick to condemn Buttigieg's criticism, pointing out that his attacks could just as easily apply to other public programs.

"Universal public systems are designed to benefit EVERYBODY!" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted last week. "Everyone contributes and everyone enjoys. We don't ban the rich from public schools, firefighters, or libraries because they are public goods."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

World Leaders Must Commit to End Covid-19 Patents: Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Decrying the "brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines," Yunus wrote that "there is still time for world leaders to say never again."

Andrea Germanos ·


Addressing Crisis 'Existentially Imperiling' Its People, Vanuatu Declares Climate Emergency

"We are in danger now, not just in the future," said Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

Andrea Germanos ·


'Grotesque': Disgust as Trump Reads Names of Uvalde Victims at NRA Convention

Former President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those pushing a "good guys with guns" theory that "utterly failed" the latest victims of a mass shooting.

Andrea Germanos ·


Wall Street-Funded Democrat PAC to Spend $1 Million in Bid to Unseat Tlaib: Report

"Imagine spending $1 million to oust Rashida Tlaib instead of organizing in Detroit to make sure Michigan goes blue," quipped one progressive group.

Brett Wilkins ·


Parents Demand Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty 'For the Sake of the Children'

"We cannot remain silent as the fossil fuel industry and world leaders rob our children of a livable future," parents from 32 nations wrote in an open letter.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo