At a time when the right-wing in this nation gets energized from politicians who advocate border walls, another Middle Eastern ground invasion and the banning of Muslims from entering the U.S., left-wing candidates and legislators are trying to appeal to voters with a very different idea: debt-free college.
Earlier this month, 10 legislators in 10 states said that they’d introduce legislation to make college debt-free for students. According to this Dec. 7 story from Marketplace, “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.”
Hawaii is one of those 10 states, and the legislation will come from Democratic Rep. Kaniela Ing, who represents South Maui.
“I would not have been able to graduate college if I had not worked part time, aggressively solicited scholarships, and obtained Pell Grants,” Ing said in a Dec. 10 news release from the state House of Representatives. “Neither of my parents graduated from college, so I viewed higher education as a ticket to the middle class. But UH tuition has tripled in the past decade, and crippling student debt is keeping young people from buying homes or starting businesses. Today’s degrees are hardly tickets, or even receipts; too often, they’re bills.”
According to Ing (who graduated from the University of Hawaii), he has racked up more than $45,000 in student debt.
For the Democratic Party as a whole, this idea has serious traction. All three leading Democratic presidential contenders–Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley–are advocating some plan for major college debt relief.
“Student debt in the U.S. is over $1 trillion,” Marketplace reported on Dec. 7. “In its most recent report, the Project on Student Debt said 69 percent of 2014 graduates had debt, averaging around $28,950.”
In America today, national and state governments already subsidize such calamities as war, sports stadiums, fossil fuel production and sugar. Why not college? Or would that make too much sense?
“Higher education should propel young people forward, not set them further back,” said Ing in the House of Representatives news release. “Our system’s disincentives for education are completely backwards. It’s past time for America to join many other industrial nations, who see education as a right, and implement debt-free college.”
Photo of Rep. Ing courtesy Hawaii House of Representatives