Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled legislation today that would make tuition free at all public four-year colleges and universities by taxing Wall Street.
According to Sen. Sanders, the College For All Act would:
Eliminate Undergraduate Tuition at 4-year Public Colleges and Universities. This legislation would provide $47 billion per year to states to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. Today, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Under the College for All Act, the federal government would cover 67% of this cost, while the states would be responsible for the remaining 33% of the cost.
Restoration of Historically Low Student Loan Interest Rates. The College for All Act would lower student loan interest rates by restoring the formula which was in effect until 2006. Student loan interest rates would be cut almost in half for undergraduate students, dropping from 4.32% to just 2.32%. In addition, the legislation would ensure rates never rise above 8.25%.
Student Loan Re-financing. The College for All Act would enable borrowers to refinance their loans based on the interest rates available to current students.
Work Study Reforms. Today, the federal work study program receives less than $1 billion per year, and serves nearly 700,000 students. This legislation would expand the number of students and colleges that can offer part-time employment and participate in the federal work study program, and focus funding on schools that enroll high numbers of low-income students.
Simplifying the Student Aid Application Process. The bill would create a pilot program to eliminate the requirement that students re-apply for financial aid each year, simplifying the application process and removing significant barriers faced by low-income students.
Fully Paid for by Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street. This legislation is offset by imposing a Wall Street speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators of 0.5% on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. It has been estimated that this provision could raise hundreds of billions a year which could be used not only to make tuition free at public colleges and universities in this country,it could also be used to create millions of jobs and rebuild the middle class of this country.
Sen. Sanders discussed the idea of tax Wall Street in order to make college free during a speech unveiling the legislation:
At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, at a time when trillions of dollars in wealth have left the pockets of the middle class and have gone to the top one-tenth of one percent, at a time when the wealthiest people in this country have made huge amounts of money from
risky derivative transactions and the soaring value of the stock market, this legislation would impose a Wall Street speculation fee on Wall Street investment houses and hedge funds.
More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and today some 40 countries throughout the world have imposed a financial transactions tax including Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, China, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Brazil.
My legislation would impose a Wall Street speculation fee of 0.5 percent on stock trades (that’s 50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives.
It has been estimated that this legislation would raise up to $300 billion a year.
The point of this bill is not passage. Everyone knows that the Republican-controlled Congress will never pass this bill. It is all about highlighting the contrast between Republicans who actively working to put in place economic barriers to higher education, and Democrats who view higher education accessibility as a key component to economic advancement and rebuilding the middle-class.
Sen. Sanders is also upping the ante in the how to make college more affordable discussion. There is no reason outside of political will why the Sanders legislation couldn’t become law. Recent studies have revealed that the Republican Party is literally dying off, and legislation like the College For All Act is an example of why younger voters are firmly in the Democratic column.