WASHINGTON, March 26, 2018– Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a piece of legislation that aims to make college free. It would incentivize state spending on higher education make college debt-free for students. The Debt-Free College Act is similar to the College for All Act, which Senator Bernie Sanders introduced last year.
The Schatz bill was introduced by Sen. Schatz and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). 32 Senators and Representatives from all over the country are cosponsoring this bill.
Sanders’ bill would make tuition free at public two- and four-year colleges. Sen. Schatz’ legislation focuses on the total cost of attending college including room and board, books and other related expenses. Schatz also pointed out that the national average cost of tuition is $8,900 a year.
However, the actual cost to attend is nearly $20,000 a year.
While college free tuition is great it would only cover 45 percent of the costs of attending a university.
Sen. Brian Schatz released a statement saying his bill leverages federal money to reinvest in education and help those who struggle to pay for college. There are some states who already offer the type of assistance that Schatz is looking for on a national level.
New York provides the Excelsior Program, which is mainly for state residents going to state schools (SUNY or CUNY). This program does not help out-of-state students or private schools.
In California, the state offers its CalGrants Program. This program only offers grants and does not guarantee free tuition. Schatz said that while college tuition is somewhat affordable, costs related to housing, food, and books make the entire college costs get higher.
If the bill is approved, it would provide federal government funding for states to put into their state universities. The federal government would match dollar-for-dollar with the state. States have been spending less on higher education, which is hurting the students enrolling at the schools.
Total student loan debt is the second highest debt, just below US mortgage debt.
Sen Brian Schatz believes that while states may initially refuse to take government funds on a one-to-one match program, over time they will soften to the idea. He pointed out that states initially refused when it came to accepting Medicaid-expansion funds.
Now some states have got on board and accept it.