we need free higher education?
The average student
graduates with $17,000 in debt from student loans; 39 percent graduate
with debt loads that require more than 8 percent of their monthly income
in repayments. In 1999/2000, 71 percent of students from families earning
less than $20,000 per year graduated with debt, compared with 44 percent
of students from families with more than $100,000 annual income. It
is not surprising, therefore, that 86 percent of high school graduates
from families with incomes over $80,750 go on to college while only
57 percent of graduates from families earning less than $33,000 do so.
These dollar amounts
do not account for the cost to those who avoid pursuing
courses of study that appeal to their intellectual curiosities and interest
because they fear not being able to earn enough to pay off their loans.
Nor does it account for those who do not even consider attending college
because of the cost.
it cost to provide free higher education for everyone currently enrolled
in public colleges and universities?
The total cost of tuition and fees for everyone currently enrolled in
public colleges and universities is approximately $25 billion. This
is a sum that is easily manageable in current federal budgets. More
than double that amount of money would be available to the federal treasury
if only those corporate tax loopholes created between 1990 and 2000
a college education become so unaffordable?
Tuition costs have
been rising faster than inflation and are projected to skyrocket in
coming years. Due to cutbacks in state funding (the primary revenue
source for public colleges), many public colleges are projecting tuition
increases in the double digits and cuts in need-based financial aid
In general, public
institutions cost less than private ones, but tuition and fees have
increased nearly tenfold (in inflation-adjusted dollars) between 1969
and 1999. Average tuition and fees at public four-year institutions
rose from $338 to $3,243 during that time. Private four-year college
tuition now averages over $14,000 a year.
there be an age limit or a requirement to be a full-time student?
There is no age
limit as the right to education should be life-long. In addition, both
part-time and full-time students are covered.
this program affect admissions standards?
No. Colleges and
universities would maintain control of those decisions; our proposal
has no bearing on how admissions decisions are made. Students become
eligible for the tuition benefits when they actually enroll in the school.
the children of wealthy parents, or wealthy adults, also be eligible?
Yes, just as with
the K-12 public education program, everyone is eligible. Some object
to this on the grounds that it subsidizes the wealthy; however, means
testing is politically unwise. Making the program universal for all
who qualify for admission minimizes the administrative costs by not
requiring elaborate income certification.
only public colleges and universities?
There are several
important reasons we have not included private universities in this
proposal: (1) targeting public institutions covers 83 percent of all
students now attending college; (2) covering the remaining 17 percent
in private schools would make the program nearly twice as expensive;
and (3) the Labor Party has always supported public schools and if education
is to be considered a right, it should be anchored in public institutions.
If, as the campaign develops, there is a popular groundswell for extending
eligibility to private schools, that could be considered. Some object
that excluding private institutions might jeopardize small, tuition-driven
non-elite private colleges. If that occurred, many of these institutions
could and would find ways to adapt possibly even by becoming
state institutions, which has happened frequently in the 20th century.
country ever done anything like this before? Is there a model for the
Our model for the
campaign is the G.I. Bill, which provided access to higher education
for 8 million returning veterans after World War II. It paid all tuition
and fees, as well as a living-wage stipend for all qualifying veterans.
Its impact on the nation has been tremendous. More than 40 percent of
veterans interviewed who attended college indicated that they wouldn't
have been able to without the G.I. Bill. A subcommittee of the Congressional
Joint Economic Committee estimated that the G.I. Bill returned $6.90
in revenue for every $1 spent on educating these veterans, based on
the resulting increased income and productivity.
in education had much broader impact as well. The expansion of enrollments
the G.I. Bill made possible stimulated construction of new facilities
and institutions, increased demand for faculty and staff, and stimulated
commercial development. The nation benefitted from the veterans' talents
and abilities that otherwise would not have been cultivated. That educational
experience also provided the economic security and interest that made
it possible for immediate beneficiaries' children and their children
to pursue higher education. College and university life was broadened
from the perspectives of a wider range of the American class and social
Among many local
attempts to deliver on the dream of free higher education, the City
University of New York (CUNY) stands out. In the 1970s, tuition was
free to all residents of New York City. As budget crises increased the
pressure on states and municipalities, most of these types of institutions
were forced to charge tuition and/or constantly escalate fees.
Lastly, our nation
did not always have universal access to high school. It was secured
because people fought for it, in spite of dire warnings from opponents.
In fact, many wealthy families in the early 1900s felt that resources
would be wasted if high school were made available to the masses.