I’m calling for something truly transformational: Universal free public college and cancellation of student loan debt

  • Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
  • Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
  • Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
  • Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.
  • Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
  • Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.

Student loan debt hits America’s teachers particularly hard. Here are just a few of their stories:

Saundra Mobley

Susan Vincent

Todd Ratica

Rebecca Davis, Serena Grigsby, Christine Baer, and Theresa Gilbert

Tatum Tirado

  • It cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000.
  • It provides substantial debt cancellation for every person with household income between $100,000 and $250,000. The $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000, so, for example, a person with household income of $130,000 gets $40,000 in cancellation, while a person with household income of $160,000 gets $30,000 in cancellation.
  • It offers no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000 (the top 5%).
  • For most Americans, cancellation will take place automatically using data already available to the federal government about income and outstanding student loan debt.
  • Private student loan debt is also eligible for cancellation, and the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief.
  • Canceled debt will not be taxed as income.
  • Create a fund for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The fund will have a minimum of $50 billion, but the Secretary of Education will have the authority to increase the amount of money in the fund as needed to ensure that spending per-student at those schools is comparable to colleges in the area. Private HBCUs and MSIs would also be able to opt into the federal free-tuition program available to public colleges.
  • Make additional federal funding available to states that demonstrate substantial improvement in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color.
  • After an appropriate transition period, ban for-profit colleges from receiving any federal dollars (including military benefits and federal student loans), so they can no longer use taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves while targeting lower-income students, servicemembers, and students of color and leaving them saddled with debt.
  • Require public colleges to complete an annual audit that identifies issues creating shortfalls in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color and that proposes steps to improve those rates.
  • Prohibit public colleges from considering citizenship status or criminal history in admissions decisions.

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