Ten states are eyeing debt-free college

Tony Wagner Dec 7, 2015

On Monday morning 10 lawmakers announced plans to introduce debt-free college bills at the state level.

The politicians, all Democrats, hail from early primary and battleground states like Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, as well as Hawaii, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts,  Missouri and South Dakota. The Associated Press noted that at least three of them are 30 or younger.

The push is being organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which advocates for expanding Social Security, Wall Street regulation, campaign finance regulation and lowering student debt. The group compared its call for government investment in higher ed to the GI bill.

Indeed, all three major presidential hopefuls on the left have pushed for containing the cost of college. Hillary Clinton revealed a $350 billion plan over the summer to eliminate borrowing at public schools. Her plan put some of the onus on states, mentioning New Hampshire’s expensive community colleges specifically. Clinton’s closest rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, has gone even further, pushing to eliminate tuition from public colleges and universities. Martin O’Malley has been critical of Sanders’ plan while introducing his own debt-free proposal.

The AP notes republicans have taken up college debt as well, most notably Ohio Governor John Kasich, who convened a task force on the issue this year. Its report, released this fall, focused on accountability measures as well as the privatization of housing and food service.

Student debt in the U.S. is over $1 trillion. In its most recent report, the Project on Student Debt said 69 percent of 2014 graduates had debt, averaging around $28,950.

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