Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"As part of the Republican tax cut pushed through at the federal level, the wealth threshold of the federal estate tax was doubled for a family from $11 million to $22 million.' (Photo: Mike Procario / Flickr)

"As part of the Republican tax cut pushed through at the federal level, the wealth threshold of the federal estate tax was doubled for a family from $11 million to $22 million.' (Photo: Mike Procario / Flickr)

Taxing Wealth to Make Public College Free Again

A California campaign is pushing to add an innovative initiative to the November ballot. The plan: make public higher education tuition-free by restoring the estate tax.

Chuck Collins

 by Inequality.org

Angad Singh Bhalla holds his son, Nanak, in his arms while juggling phone calls at all hours of the day.  He is the coordinator of newly formed California College for All campaign. A filmmaker and labor activist, Bhalla has jumped into this campaign with gusto.

For Bhalla, this is more than a movement to make college more accessible. “I was inspired by thousands of young people that turned out for the Sanders campaign.  I’ve been involved in other campaigns before but I’d never seen anything like it.”

“I thought, ‘We should engage these people.’  Things are in motion.  We may not have a movement yet, but this is the way.”

(Photo: Angad Singh Bhalla)

The state-level College for All campaign is now going into the field, collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot for November 2018. The initiative would increase student aid funding at California public colleges and universities by restoring a dedicated tax on estates over $3.5 million.

If approved by California voters in November, it would dramatically increase investment in public higher education while reducing the concentration of wealth and power.

In the last 20 years, the cost of college has gone up over 300 percent at the University of California and within the state university system.  Community college is still relatively expensive.  They were all virtually tuition-free in the 1970s.

“One lesson from the 2016 campaign is you can only go so far saying “our opponent is a monster,” said Bhalla.  “You need to have a compelling vision.  I think this issue — college debt and tuition — will mobilize young voters and boost turnout for 2018.  By putting something bold and exciting on the ballot you will pull young people out and have all sorts of impacts. “

“I think it is strategic to pay for ‘college for all’ with an estate tax.  The initiative will levy a tax on the richest 0.2 percent of Californians, about 4,000 multi-millionaires and billionaires, and would assist 2.6 million students.”


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he co-edits Inequality.org, and is author of the new book, "Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good."  He is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, recently merged with the Patriotic Millionaires. He is co-author, with Bill Gates Sr., of "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes."

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Now We're Talking!' Says AOC as Biden Backs Filibuster Carveout for Abortion Rights

"Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it," said the New York Democrat. "Use the bully pulpit. We need more."

Jake Johnson ·


Supreme Court Says Biden Can End 'Shameful' Remain in Mexico Asylum Policy

"Now is the turn for Congress to get rid of Title 42, and provide a solution to the weakened asylum system in place, to provide a humane and fair alternative to vulnerable children, families, and individuals fleeing unsafe conditions and persecution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo