It’s a simple fact that our nation’s economic success depends on a highly educated and skilled workforce. But, with higher education tuition and fees continuing to rise, up to 70% in the last five years in some states, and incomes stagnating for lower and middle class Americans, the ability of millions of families to afford the key to economic and social mobility for their children has been greatly diminished.
It is time to make college tuition free.
Exploding student debt in this country has long been a warning flag; an indicator that the current way we have chosen to finance the acquisition of a postsecondary degree or skill certificate is unsustainable.
Seven in 10 college seniors who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower.
We must fundamentally reform the way the country finances higher education in order to Redeem America’s Promise for today’s generation and future generations of young Americans.
Throughout our nation’s history we have made an ever expanding commitment to provide each new generation free and universal access to the education the country needed them to have for our success. The Northwest Ordinance set aside land for one room schoolhouses in the 18th Century and mandatory, free primary education was instituted in all states at the time of the Civil War. In the 20th Century, as our growing Industrial Age economy required workers for our factories and offices, government funding provided a free, public high school education for everyone to respond to these new demands. After World War Two, the GI Bill of Rights was enacted to give those who served our nation a chance to further their education in the nation’s colleges, establishing an educational foundation for America’s middle class. In July 2008, the Post-9/11 GI Bill of Rights was signed into law, creating a new set of higher education benefits that continued our nation’s commitment to provide those who serve with the educational opportunities they deserve.
In short, America has always tried to use government resources to provide sufficient funds to those willing and able to acquire the skills and knowledge they needed, acting under the philosophy that public support of higher education is an economic driver for the entire nation.
Unfortunately, this tradition has ended for most members of the Millennial Generation. Only in this century have we asked an entire generation to self-finance the increasingly expensive education they need to be economically successful and which our country needs them to have to ensure our global competitiveness.
Our goal is to make the attainment of a college education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances. We believe this can be done without raising federal taxes to pay for this plan or to further burden future generations with additional national debt by redirecting existing federal spending in support of higher education, significantly reducing the profits the federal government currently makes on student loans, and asking states to do their part to restore their support for higher education to historic levels.
We cannot do this alone. Success will require all Americans, including those who will benefit from the changes we recommend, particularly the Millennial Generation, their parents, and their children, to join us. We are building a historic inter-generational alliance to educate policy makers about why we need to make this change, but we cannot wait to do so.
If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you join us by lending your name to our effort. We also ask you to encourage your friends and family – on Facebook, Twitter, and in your community or campus – to become part of the coalition that will take these historic steps to expand one of the cornerstones of our great nation’s success – universal, free education.