More than 400,000 signatures in support of a congressional resolution calling for debt-free college were delivered to Congress today by a coalition of organizations that included the Campaign for America's Future.
Those who signed “urge Hillary Clinton and all Democrats to make big ideas like debt-free college central to their 2016 campaigns.”
Senate co-sponsors of the resolution who joined the press conference included Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). House co-sponsors and speakers included Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).
Higher education should, and typically has, led to a better life. But college students currently face more than $1.3 trillion of education debt in the U.S. It’s likely that a majority of voters in this next election cycle will have that burden on their minds. At today’s news conference, constituents and politicians stressed the importance of a debt-free education.
Sen. Schumer characterized the massive amounts of debt connected with obtaining a higher education as “un-American.”
“A college education is the best way to stay in and get to the middle class.” said Schumer.
“In the two years I have been a student at college, I have acquired over $30,000 in student loans,” said Maija Hall, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “When I graduate that number may be $90,000. I’m currently struggling to register for my next classes because I have $1,000 of unmet need that cannot cover with federal aid.”
Another student, Duncan Robinson, who attends the University of Maryland-Baltimore campus explained his dismay with his college debt situation. “I will be $25,000 in debt in student loans,” he said. “This debt is deterring me from pursuing higher education which would secure me a better job down the line… which costs even more money. The starting salary for someone with a B.S. in my field of study is just $39,000. It’s a cycle… that you won’t be able to pay off.”
Today’s college debt situation is not how it has always been in the United States. Even 30 years ago, college was mostly affordable, and even free for many.
“I ended up 30 miles away from a state school that charged $50 a semester. And that’s how I got a college diploma. I believe in an America with debt-free college.” said Warren.
Debt-free college truly is not some radical, unattainable goal. “Debt-free college? College is free in Germany and other countries in this world. You can’t tell me that the richest country in the world, at its richest point, can’t afford to do this? It’s simply a question of political will.” said Rep. Ellison.
“The cost of tuition, is too damn high.” said Schumer. “This [petition] is an act in the belief of America and the American dream.”