Robert Reich Joins the Call for Debt-Free College

In an interview with Capital & Main published today, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls for free higher public education and debt-free college.

“I think we’ve got to move to a system of free higher education,” said Reich.

Reich includes the idea of free higher education in his platform titled “10 Ideas to Save the Economy,” in which “reinventing education” is number 5. To reinvent education, Reich states that in addition to making higher public education free, we need to implement policies that stop endless testing, limit classroom size, increase federal funding and services, have optional technical training, and increase teacher pay.

“I would like to add that it’s not a radical idea,” said Reich. Others agree.

This past week, CAF helped to deliver over 400,000 signatures in support of debt-free higher education. The movement has many political supporters, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass.), among others.

There are various ways we can provide a debt-free college education for all Americans. Sanders has his College for All Act. Reich advocates “raising taxes on the wealthiest members of our society who have never been as rich as they are now. Whose effective tax rates are extraordinarily low relative to what they were 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago. And who have a social responsibility to invest in the education of everybody else’s kids.”

The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign also agrees with Reich. The organization has created easy-to-read fact sheets detailing how we can solve America’s education crisis, through raising states’ revenues.

According to the Campaign, “when appropriate investments are paid for with well-structured tax increases they result in significant positive net impacts to a state’s economy.”

The Opportunity to Learn campaign gives three tax-based ways to increase revenue for education: a “millionaire’s tax” provision, in which “a 1 percent increase to tax rates on incomes exceeding $500,000….states would collectively raise around $8 billion in additional annual revenue.” The two others include progressive income tax provisions, and sales tax provisions.

Sanders’ Robin Hood Tax plan is similar, in which a Wall Street speculation fee could raise “hundreds of billions a year” for free higher education.

Debt-free college should be the norm. It is in numerous other countries across the world. In fact, higher education is one of the most powerful indicators of sustained economic growth and reduction in poverty and inequality. To build our middle class and boost our economy, it is necessary to provide young Americans with education they deserve.

“When I first came to the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1960s as a research assistant, tuition and fees at Berkeley were almost zero. We’ve been there. We’ve done it and succeeded with free higher education and we need to return to an idea that worked,” Reich said.

Get updates in your inbox