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2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposes bill that promises free college tuition



Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the latest to announce his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. A self-described Socialist, Sanders is making headlines with his more “radical” statements and initiatives than his big-name rival, Hillary Clinton.

Recently, Sanders proposed the “College for All Act”, an initiative that would eliminate undergraduate tuition costs at four year public colleges and universities.

Today, total tuition costs at public colleges and universities amount to about $70 billion dollars per year. Under the “College for All Act”, the federal government would cover 67 percent of national tuition costs, while individual states would be responsible for the remaining 33 percent of the cost.

Additionally, the bill would reform student loan interest rates. By restoring a formula that was in use until 2006, student loan interest rates would be nearly cut in half, dropping from 4.32 percent to just 2.32. In addition, the bill would ensure interest rates never rise above 8.25 percent.

“I support a number of proposals to make college more accessible and affordable for all Americans. Soaring student loan debt is impacting people’s ability to find a job, invest in a home, and contribute to the economy,” Congressman Peter DeFazio stated. “More than half of a million Oregonians of all ages are weighed down by student debt just because they want a better shot.”

The act would also expand the number of students and colleges that can offer part-time employment and participate in the federal work study program. Currently, the federal work study program receives less than $1 billion per year, and only serves about 700,000 students.

“I strongly support the overall goals of the legislation including free tuition at public universities, lower student loan interest rates and the ability to refinance those loans, expansion of work study, and simplification of applying for financial aid,” DeFazio said. “I have questions about the funding mechanisms in the bill, but I hope that by bringing these issues into the spotlight, we can build more momentum toward affordable higher education.”

If the “College for All Act” passes, students at Universities across the nation would be able to attend college for free. For the 2014-2015 school year at the University of Oregon, tuition costs were $9,918 for residents, and $30,888 for non-residents; a cost that many UO students argue is too high.

“I’m thinking about transferring, I feel that I’m overpaying for school and I don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of it,” Luke Lundstrom, a student at the UO and native Californian, said. “I also have three younger sisters who are next in line to go to college; so that’s always in the back of my mind, that my parents have to fund my sisters’ college education too.” 

“Tuition costs are too high, especially because I’m out of state.” Emilie Kemp, another UO student and native Californian, said. “It puts strain on my family economically, and I feel I can’t take many electives because I don’t want to waste time or money.”

While most students feel that they pay too much for college, some argue that the bill is unfeasible, as it would provide funding for students whose families can already afford to pay the tuition.

“It’s a good initiative, but I think that it’s a little overzealous. I don’t think it’s realistic to make four year public universities free. I think we should start smaller, with community colleges first,” Lundstrom said.

“I think it’s a little over-eager, but Sanders definitely has the right mindset,” Kemp said. “Education is really important and something we should focus on. College tuition absolutely needs to be more affordable.” 

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Shelby Chapman

Shelby Chapman