Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal appear during a press conference for the reitroduction of the Medicare for All Act outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2023.

(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sanders, Jayapal Re-Up Plan to Make College Tuition-Free by Taxing Wall Street Speculation

"In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few," Sanders argued.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Wednesday reintroduced legislation that would make college tuition-free for working families and pay for it with a tax on Wall Street speculation.

"Today, this country tells young people to get the best education they can, and then saddles them for decades with crushing student loan debt. To my mind, that does not make any sense whatsoever," Sanders (I-Vt.)—who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee—said in a statement. "In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few."

First introduced in 2015, the College for All Act would "guarantee tuition-free community college for all students and allow students from single households earning up to $125,000 a year, and married households earning up to $250,000 a year, to attend college without fear of being saddled with student loan debt," according to a statement from Sanders' office.

The legislation would also double the maximum Pell Grant award from $7,395 to $14,790 for the 2024-25 school year; establish a $10 billion grant program for "states participating in the federal-state partnership to scale evidence-based practices and strategies"; and double funding for historically Black colleges and universities and tribal institutions of higher learning—among other funding increases.

Sanders' office called the proposal "the most substantial expansion of higher education access since the Great Society and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Higher Education Act of 1965."

Sanders asserted:

It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money. In the 21st century, a free public education system that goes from kindergarten through high school is no longer good enough. The time is long overdue to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free for working families. Education is one of the keys to a successful democracy and we must make it easier, not harder, for young people to obtain the degrees they have worked so hard for.

The revived College for All Act comes amid uncertainty over the fate of President Joe Biden's plan to relieve the student debt burden of tens of millions of Americans, which is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court and its right-wing supermajority.

"As millions of borrowers wait in limbo to see if the Supreme Court will allow President Biden's student debt cancellation plan to lift millions out of debt, Congress must work to ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans in the first place," said Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"I'm proud to lead this legislation with Sen. Sanders that would free students from a lifetime of debt and transform our country's higher education system by ensuring that everyone can afford to pursue a college degree," she added.

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