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Democrats prepare post-election agenda. First up? “Free” college

(Marko Georgiev/The Record of Bergen County via AP)

(Marko Georgiev/The Record of Bergen County via AP)

About two dozen congressional Democrats are currently pushing to begin the next legislative year with a debt-free college proposal.

“The goal is to have one final legislative proposal … by the time the next president is sworn in. So it’s on the shelf, ready to go,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee told Roll Call.

Green’s group has found willing partners in both the House and the Senate, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is likely to become the next Democratic leader should his party regain control of the Senate. While the PCCC and those working with them have declined to provide specific details on the proposal, it is thought that the bill may include increased aid to states, assisting students with high costs, and holding schools accountable for rising tuition.

In addition, they say the proposal will allow students to graduate with no college debt and hope that it will be taken up early in 2017 if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Over the course of her campaign, Clinton has laid out a plan for debt-free tuition at public universities, called the “New College Compact,” which is estimated to cost $350 billion over the next 10 years.

The proposal is likely to be met with opposition from congressional Republicans, who have expressed doubt that debt-free college actually does anything to help lower tuition costs.

“None of those proposals, debt-free college included, do anything to put downward pressure on college prices themselves,” Lindsey Burke, an education fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Roll Call.

With the federal government increasing the number of student loans given out, universities know that they’re guaranteed to get paid, whether from the government or from the students themselves. Knowing they’ll get their money regardless allows them to continue to raise the cost of tuition. So, some say giving out fewer federal student loans would actually do more to force colleges to drop their prices.

Republicans have suggested alternative solutions such as student-loan tax breaks, reforming accreditation, and excluding up to $10,000 from a worker’s annual income in student loan payments made by his or her employer.

Green and his partners plan to move forward with their legislation in the coming months.


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