Rep. Lee Joins Sen. Sanders, Reps. Jayapal and Omar to Introduce Groundbreaking Bills to Ensure College For All and Eliminate All Student Debt

WASHINGTON — Today, Rep. Lee joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in unveiling landmark legislation to eliminate tuition and fees at all public four-year colleges and universities, as well as make community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs tuition- and fee-free for all. The proposal also eliminates all $1.6 trillion in student debt for 45 million Americans. Rep. Barbara Lee is an original co-sponsor on the bill, which would have profound implications for thousands of East Bay students – especially students of color, who often face higher financial hurdles to paying for school.

“Paying for college is a nearly insurmountable financial obstacle for students all across the country, including thousands here in the East Bay. This is especially true for students of color, who struggle disproportionately to pay for college and bear the brunt of the student loan debt burden,” said. Rep. Lee. “No one should have to go into debt to get an education. I’m proud to join Sen. Sanders and Reps. Jayapal and Omar in introducing this transformative legislation.”

Under the College for All Act, the average student loan borrower would save about $3,000 a year, and the economy would get a boost of approximately $1 trillion over 10 years, which could be used to buy new homes, cars, and open up small businesses. Student debt is also disproportionately impacting African Americans and Latinos. Twelve years after starting college, for example, the median black borrower owed more than he or she had taken out in the first place.

The College for All Act would eliminate tuition and fees for all families at public colleges and universities by creating a partnership to provide $48 billion per year to states to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public institutions. Consequently, students from any family would be able to attend a public four-year college or university or four-year tribal college or university, tuition-and fee-free. All students would also be able to attend community colleges, trade schools or apprenticeship programs tuition-and fee-free.

The bill also provides at least $1.3 billion per year to eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees for low-income students at two-and four-year, private nonprofit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and private nonprofit Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that serve a student body that is composed of at least 35 percent low-income students. About 200 schools would be eligible to participate.

The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of this bill would be paid for entirely by a tax on Wall Street speculation. During the financial crisis, Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the United States. Now, argue the lawmakers, it’s Wall Street’s turn to help rebuild the disappearing middle class. The members of Congress propose imposing a small Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.5 percent on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives, which would raise up to $2.4 trillion over the next decade. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and some 40 countries have already imposed a similar financial transactions tax.

This milestone legislation was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Freedom to Prosper, Social Security Works, Progress America, Progressive Democrats of America, Student Action, People's Action, Debt Collective, the American Medical Students Association, CREDO Action, and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE).