As the beginning of the semester brings a collective sigh to students as they cut their five-figure tuition checks, nationwide conversations about reducing the cost of college become more critical. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders recently introduced a cutting-edge way to reform the affordability of higher education. The solution is simple: eliminate tuition costs altogether. Sanders’s “College for All” act would provide four years of free education to students attending public colleges and universities, a proposal that opens the door to many needed conversations about education reform and forces fellow presidential candidates to express their stance.
Sanders’s message resonates with those burdened by loans.
“We have a crisis in higher education today. Too many of our young people cannot afford a college education, and those who are leaving college are faced with crushing debt,” Sanders said in a speech to American University students. “This is not what America is supposed to be about.”
Sanders recognizes a very important point that other candidates often overlook: Financial pressure has the ability to debilitate academic performance. According to Edvisors, a website that analyzes how students pay for college, 71 percent of recent college students with a bachelor’s degree will graduate with student debt.
The class of 2015 is the most indebted graduating class in history. Each recent graduate will pay back on average $35,000. Higher education is becoming less affordable, and thus less attainable.
Sanders’s legislative proposal came after President Barack Obama’s guarantee to make the first two years of community college free. Under Obama’s plan, “America’s College Promise,” students could attend community college at no cost as long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend part-time. Sanders’s plan, the “College for All” act would tax Wall Street transactions, direct revenue toward college tuition, lower interest rates and increase work-study. Though economists dispute feasibility, many agree that Sanders’s ideas will shape Hillary Clinton’s education platform. He may be able to wield this influence because he is one of the first presidential candidates to blatantly state his view on education reform. And his influence over his fellow presidential candidates will only strengthen as the election progresses.
“Sanders can have an influence in terms of the kinds of issues that get attention, get talked about and eventually get picked up by the candidate that does become Democratic nominee and potentially the next president,” said Matthew Chingos, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, to the International Business Times.
Following Sanders’s education bill, fellow presidential candidates are starting to announce their views on education reform. Hillary Clinton introduced a new plan for making higher education more feasible for students, and Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley proposed freezing tuition rates in public institutions.
One thing is certain. There is no clear consensus in either political party on how to rebuild the current education system. Sanders’s proposal, however, propels fellow presidential candidates to take a stance on education reform, thus increasing the chance of real education reform.
While notable communities such as Beverly Hills have started to crack down on their residents for excessive water consumption, the progress is too slow to warrant the continuation of the #droughtshaming fad. Fines might be a good idea, but if we want any serious results out of Southern California, the region needs more action. Perhaps the next logical step is in the hands of the local city councils — punishments beyond the water company fines. Cutting off water to certain wasteful areas or households could be the next step in water conservation efforts, however harsh it may sound, but maybe that is what it will take to reduce our water footprint while we still have the resource.