By Bernie Sanders
United States Senator for Vermont
Two years ago, when I first introduced the College for All Act, the political establishment said that it couldn’t be done, and that it was a “pie in the sky” idea. But a nationwide, grassroots movement led by millions of you and your families refused to take “no” for an answer. Loudly and clearly, you said that in the wealthiest country on earth it is unacceptable for young people to go $30,000 $40,000, $50,000 in debt just to get a college education, or for hundreds of thousands of bright young people not to go to college because they cannot afford it.
Today, the idea doesn’t seem so crazy. Recent polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that four year colleges and universities should be tuition free.
The good news is that legislators across the country are now introducing their own “college for all” bills at both state and municipal levels. This year, the City College of San Francisco began offering tuition-free college, and enrollments for residents are up by 51 percent compared to the prior year. In New York, this year tens of thousands will go to the state’s public colleges and universities without paying tuition. Similar programs have popped up in Tennessee, a conservative state, and in Oregon, as well as the cities of Detroit, Chicago and many others.
We are making enormous progress on this issue, but much more has to be done. I am calling on you for your help. Please join me for a livestream event on October 10th at 7 pm ET to kick off a campus movement to fight to make public colleges and universities tuition free.
Many of you and your families are struggling to meet the high costs of tuition, expensive books, housing, and extra fees. You’ve had to choose majors that are “marketable,” instead of ones that you are passionate about. Some of you have had to attend less expensive schools over the summer to save on tuition, or cram credits in already busy semesters. Far too many of you are forced to work long hours in between classes instead of paying attention to your academic work.
It’s no secret that student debt in America has reached crisis proportions, with more than 40 million Americans owing over $1.3 trillion. All across this country, young people are struggling with outrageous debt for decades, which impacts their ability to get married, have kids or buy a home. People should not be punished for getting the education they need.
Other nations around the world understand the benefits of having an educated workforce that isn’t burdened with enormous student debt. In Germany, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and many other countries public colleges and universities are free. In Germany, public colleges are free not only for Germans, but also for international students.
Education is essential for both personal and national well-being. We live in a highly competitive, global economy, and if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. The only way to achieve that goal is to make sure that every young person in this country can get the education that he or she desires, regardless of his or her family’s income, and without going into major debt.
When an idea catches fire, when people see the justice of that idea, it can move very, very quickly. In my view, there will be a day when every qualified American will be able to get the college education they need tuition-free. But that day won’t come until the American people demand it.
That’s why I am calling on you to participate in a College for All rally on October 10th at 7 pm ET. I encourage you to organize an event on your campus, get together with your friends, and tune into our livestream at Facebook.com/SenatorSanders.
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