Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to make free public college a reality — but Americans are divided on the issue.
Sanders has made it clear he intends to make tuition at public colleges free nationwide. To do so, he has proposed implementing a 50 cent tax on every $100 of speculative stock traded on Wall Street.
Although his proposal has very little chance of making it through a Republican controlled U.S. Congress, it still raises the question of whether or not his solution, and free higher education in general, is beneficial — or even possible.
Jenna Robinson, president of The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said making college more affordable should not involve the federal government.
“Right now, one of the main reasons that tuition is escalating the way it is, is because of federal interference in the student loan system. By providing so much free money it allows colleges to continually increase their tuition,” Robinson said.
Some proponents of the plan have concerns about the devaluation of the college degree said Jake Riggs, outreach chair for the UNC College Republicans.
“Currently a high school degree is really undervalued because our education system is struggling and it’s almost an expectation to go to college. By making higher education free, you’re simply going to worsen that and eventually the college degree will be worthless because everyone will have it,” Riggs said
However, others argue that a college educated populace would have significant economic benefits for the country.
Morley Winograd, president and CEO of The Campaign for Free College Tuition, cites the spike in college educated Americans in the years following the implementation of the GI Bill as proof of the economic value of free public higher education.
“As a result of (the GI Bill) we had this huge increase in college educated Americans from about (19)45 through 1960 and the result of that was a broadening of America’s middle class and a very expansive time period of economic growth,” Winograd said.
Niko House, president of UNC's College Students for Bernie Sanders and NC Colleges for Bernie, said Bernie’s proposal would also help stabilize Wall Street because the tax will make super wealthy investors trade less often.
“They’ll start trading less, because if you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that you’re trading at a time, then you’re talking about losing almost a million — so what that does is stabilize the market,” House said.
Sanders still faces an uphill battle to convince Republicans in Congress to support his proposal before free college tuition becomes a reality, but House is optimistic.
“Bernie Sanders has had a history of working across party lines on numerous occasions, whether it be for veteran benefits or for environmental reasons."
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