My National Public Service Plan for debt-free college, stronger communities, and brighter futures
We can tackle the student debt crisis and ensure every American has a chance to reach their full potential by reinvigorating our culture of public service.
At the heart of every conversation, I have on the campaign trail is a question: How can we ensure that every young American has the chance to reach their full potential?
For too many, the shot at a brighter future is simply out of reach.
Young people are ready and willing to invest in their communities and get to work. But college costs continue to skyrocket, and students graduate saddled with debt that too often keeps them from buying houses, building families, and achieving their dreams.
The student debt crisis isn’t just holding back young people — it’s a drag on our whole economy.
That’s why I created my National Public Service Plan, to make debt-free college possible for everyone, and prepare all of our students for the future.
My plan will strengthen the middle class and help those struggling to enter it, while rewarding public service and building up a new generation of community and public service leaders.
And our under-serviced sectors like health care, education, green energy, and disaster and emergency response would see an influx of desperately needed support.
The plan provides a unique opportunity to address a national problem with a ready solution: Providing every American who wants to answer the call to public service with the support they need to succeed.
The inspiration for my plan was drawn from another groundbreaking service initiative: the GI Bill, enacted in 1944. The bill was a national investment in the brave Americans who defended our country, providing them with a college education, and in turn, was partly responsible for creating our country’s middle class.
It changed the course of our nation, and, to this day, continues to provide educational support to those who serve in uniform. But the time has come for another great national investment in Americans committed to serving their country — this time, in the form of public service.
Here’s how it works:
Anyone who commits to work one year in a public service job would be awarded tax-free financial assistance to attend two years of public or community college tuition-free. Those who serve two years would be able to attend four years free.
We’re talking about good jobs that will give young people professional training and experience, improve communities, and foster a culture of public service. And in return for that commitment, we’d provide access to debt-free college so they can keep building their future and reaching their potential.
Already have an undergraduate degree or don’t want to go to college? You can still participate in the program and use the equivalent tax-free financial assistance toward the cost of getting a graduate degree, to pay down existing student debt, to participate in an accredited job-training program like an apprenticeship, to start a business, or to purchase a home.
And we’d prioritize lifting up public service leaders in communities that have been left behind. A bonus financial award would be made available to qualified graduates who serve in communities in particular need, like rural and urban areas facing persistent poverty, population loss, or shortages in critical services.
You’re probably already familiar with what some of these service opportunities look like, like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Service would also include:
- members of the military
- public service professionals, like teaching assistants and special education aides
- assistants in non-profit health care, like home health aides, nurses, and nursing aides
- social workers
- public defenders
- first responders
- certain non-profit work and jobs in federal, state, local, and tribal governments.
To execute this plan, as president, I’ll appoint a new cabinet-level director of national public service to administer it. And state and local boards would ensure that their public service needs were being met through federal service programs and incentives to attract public service professionals to high-need areas.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen our middle class by tackling the student debt crisis.
But we must invest in and support national public service and ensure that those who dedicate themselves to our country and their communities are rewarded with opportunity and upward mobility.
Together, we can make sure that every American has the chance to reach their full potential.