Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal introduced the College For All Act, a bill to make college tuition-free at every four-year public university, community college and trade school.

Nexus File Photo

To make tuition free, the act would provide $47 billion per year — 67% of which would be covered by the federal government and 33% by the states — to universities, according to a statement released on Sanders’ website. Universities would have to meet various requirements to qualify for the funding. 

The funding cannot be used to fund administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid or the construction of non-academic buildings, Sanders explains in the statement. 

The College for All Act would also eliminate the existing $1.6 trillion in national student debt for 45 million Americans, a number that includes UC Santa Barbara students and alumni. 

In the last year alone, over 69% of undergraduates were offered some form of financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans or grants. Those undergraduates received a total of $361 million in aid, $54 million of which were loans. 

The bill aims to increase prospective students’ accessibility to college degrees in a time when a degree in higher education matters increasingly more in the job market, Jayapal said in a press release sent out on June 24. 

“There is a crisis in higher education at a time when a postsecondary degree is more important than ever,” Jayapal added. “A college degree should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few.” 

“We are committed to restoring freedom to students, workers and families — freedom from the student debt that is holding them back.”

Sanders echoed similar statements, adding that cancelling the student debt “ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education.”

The money needed to fund the act would come from “imposing a small Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.5 percent on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives,” the press release said. 

The three said Wall Street has a duty to help Americans after the 2008 crash.

“The American people bailed out Wall Street,” Omar said. “It’s time for Wall Street to bail out American people.”

According to Omar, cancelling student debt would not only allow Americans to freely pursue their careers but also stimulate the national economy. 

“Under the College for All Act, the average student loan borrower would save about $3,000 a year, and the economy would get a boost of approximately $1 trillion over 10 years,” the press release said. 

Other Democratic presidential candidates besides Sanders have also committed to the issue of cancelling student debt and making public colleges tuition-free at varying levels, such as Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

According to her presidential campaign website, Senator Warren plans to address higher education by making it free for everyone through an “Ultra-Millionaire” Tax

“I’m calling for something truly transformational,” Warren said on her website. “The cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans and free universal college for everyone.” 

While College for All calls for the cancellation of all student debt, Warren’s plan would relieve approximately 75% of Americans of student debt.