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Not only would Bernie Sander’s plan not pay for free four year college for everyone, it could undermine free community college programs, by shifting state funding to more costly four year colleges-universities.

Under Sanders’ plan, the Federal government would provide $47 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. He apparently assumes a steady-state total tuition of $70 billion per year, so that it would cover 67% and assumes that states would fund 33%. However, free college-university means that, unless entrance is restricted, the number of students attending would increase, so the amount that $47 billion covers would decrease. Additionally, not all states would be willing or able to pay the 33%.

Furthermore, it is unclear how this would impact the ability of states to provide free community college. The state funds risk being shifted from two year community colleges, where they are better used, to four year colleges. [Note for the non-American reader, colleges are small universities, which traditionally focus more on teaching. Universities are traditionally more focused on research. The US built many public land-grant colleges, which are now universities. US colleges appear to increasingly be calling themselves universities. The two terms will be used interchangeably here. There are two and four year colleges.]

Many college graduates are working in jobs that should not require a college education: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2020/02/27/over-a-third-of-us-college-graduates-work-in-jobs-not-typically-requiring-college-degrees/

Some two year colleges are already free and some four year colleges are already free for the poor. There are cheaper four year colleges, some of which can easily be covered by US Federal Goverment Pell Grants. The bigger problem is cost of housing and food. Often students can commute from home to a community college, however.

One unanswered question is why some public universities cost more or less, even within the same states. Students need to start shopping around for the cheapest school in their state. The rankings of universities change through the years and cost is not necessarily an indicator of current or future ranking. If you attend two years of community college and two years of university, you end up with two degrees, generally for less than the cost of four years at a four-year college-university.

There are cheap four year colleges, some of which can be easily covered by Pell Grants. Some of these have additional fees, however, which bring up the effective tuition cost: https://archive.li/QdtGx For instance, the in-state resident tuition of Western Carolina University was $1,000 per year, and, after some fees, the total effective in-state tuition came to $3,926. In 2014-15, 72% of Western Carolina University students received an average total aid of $6,464; 42% received it in the form of Pell Grants. The average Pell Grant awarded there was $4,343. https://archive.li/9y4yD. However, as of 2018, The NC Promise Tuition Plan “drastically reduces the tuition cost for students. In-state students pay $500 a semester and out-of-state students pay $2,500 a semester.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Carolina_University
In-state resident tuition for Southern University at New Orleans is $4,483 per year. The average Pell Grant (2014-2015) there is $4,766. https://archive.li/g3Inj These are but two examples, there are more. CollegeCalc. Org data is sourced from: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Under Sanders’ plan, the Federal government would provide $47 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. He apparently assumes a steady-state total tuition of $70 billion per year, so that it would cover 67% and assumes that states would fund 33%. He wants to fund this with a tax on Wall Street. Such a tax, if ever approved, could be used for health care, social security, infrastructure or other essential public needs.

However, free college means that, unless entrance is restricted, the number of students would increase, so the amount that $47 billion covers would decrease. Additionally, not all states would be willing or able to pay the 33%. And, will tuition be free for illegal immigrants? Some states which have free community college (first two years of college-university) are allowing undocumented (illegal) immigrants to attend for free.

More sensible is sending people to two year community colleges and providing Pell Grants for the last two years of college-university to needy good students from the community colleges, rather than giving Pell Grants to all needy students. More important is to improve K-12 education, and to work toward standardizing quality and cost of public colleges and universities. Also, stop importing foreign workers so that Americans can get jobs to pay off their student loans.

“College for all” proposals miss a lot of basic points about colleges-universities in the United States. Not all students who want to go to university are university material for various reasons. Some of the better paying jobs are vo-tech jobs, and do not require four year college degrees.

The investments in US education need to be in Kindergarten through High School (K-12) and not in holding people in school for an additional four years, or more, often with the same or poorer results than a quality high school degree.

Not all public colleges are expensive, and there are Pell Grants for truly needy students.

Furthermore, universities in other countries, which are free, tend to track students from a very young age into university or non-university tracks, and into science or language tracts. This has been widely criticized in the past. This puts a lot of stress on children; allows parents to choose the children’s future career focus; is generally considered to discriminate based on class and to perpetuate the class and status system. Some, if not all, free-cheap foreign universities have strict entrance requirements; others have entrance based on lottery (or this was so in the past).

Specializing at a young age is believed to decrease creativity. American schools (K-12) are supposed to create good citizens and creative workers, not just worker bees.

Some US public colleges-universities restrict on the front end through test scores and grades; others are open entry to all high school graduates; some restrict through costs; others are cheap.

The more college graduates in the market-place – whether Americans or foreign workers – the less value a college education holds. To the extent that US teachers and professors grade on a scale based on class average, an open enrollment, free system, risks dumbing down standards, especially since college students are invited to evaluate their professors, even though they are not qualified to do so. In stark contrast, in K-12 settings, other professionals do the evaluations. College students who earn bad grades tend to be nasty on these evaluations. Fear of bad evaluations encourages non-tenured professors to coddle students and to give better grades than the students deserve, adding to a vicious downward spiral. In both public and private schools, the student has become a sort of client, and the teacher an entertainer-servant. Professors should be evaluated by qualified professionals and not by students. Any student evaluations should take place months or years after the class. While some K-12 teachers have been upset about evaluations by other professionals, it certainly makes more sense than being evaluated by unqualified students.

For decades, college-university education has provided a way to keep Americans out of the workforce and hope alive with false promises, while foreign workers are imported under H1B and other visa schemes. The way that H1B “speciality worker” is defined means that they can take jobs from any American graduate apart from a General Studies major. The employer doesn’t have to prove that they can’t find an American.

What good is it to train nurses in two year LPN programs at community colleges, if foreign nurses are going to be imported. What good to train as a teacher or professor, if foreigners trained in the US, or abroad, are imported to take away jobs. Better known is the plight of US Tech workers. US Tech workers are very overtly losing their jobs en masse, but other jobs tend to be picked off one by one.

So, Americans can easily spend the better years of their lives – including the years when they should be establishing families – trying to improve themselves through education, only to find their jobs snatched away by foreign graduates – whether educated in the US or abroad makes no difference.

Even apart from cost of tuition, higher education is a big waste of precious time and energy, if the US is going to continue to import foreign workers. Imported professors means that students cannot understand their professors – an ongoing complaint for many decades in math and science, but which has been spreading out to other fields of study, as well.

Right now, the average age of foreign born US residents is actually higher than native born. US immigration policy is actually contributing to the aging of the population, both due decades of importing foreign professional workers, along with family joining by their elderly parents.

Go back to school has been a mantra for decades to cover the fact that foreigners are being imported to take American jobs. Finally one can spend one’s better years in school and get a PhD only to have rare academic positions go to foreign workers who are not necessarily more talented and sometimes barely speak English.

One thing that many people don’t understand, however, is that money buys more than tuition. With free tuition, good housing, tutors and time, anyone can get a degree. People with money send their kids to prep classes for entrance testing, which defeats the purpose of the entrance tests and should be outlawed. All of these things give wealthy foreigners and wealthy Americans an unfair advantage. Some smart people get scholarships, but can’t take them because they need to work to help their families.

Potential college students need to get smart and take things into their own hands and seek out cheaper institutions, which do exist, in order to minimize or hopefully avoid debt.

Note: This post was written by a PhD who has worked as a K-12 teacher; a community college and university professor, and who is the child of a teacher and college professor, and the grandchild of a teacher. This blogger has also been a student in Europe and Canada.

Non-American bloggers with zero experience of the US educational system should not be making assumptions, based on foreign educational systems, to try to foist Bernie’s BS agenda upon the USA. The US educational system is close to unique, and it is very decentralized. You are welcome to import Bernie and foist him upon yourselves. Statements like “if someone can do the work they should be able to go to college for free” show a blatant ignorance of how the US College system works. Everyone can get into some college; “doing the work” is relative, and if you can afford to sit there long enough, you can get a degree, unless you are hopelessly lazy. The big problem is in the dumbing down of K-12, which means that college is now like high school. There are illiterate PhDs. People need to start getting a quality education in grades K-12 again.

Excerpt from: “Summary of Sen. Sanders’ College for All Act

Eliminate Undergraduate Tuition at 4-year Public Colleges and Universities. This legislation would provide $47 billion per year to states to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities.

Today, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Under the College for All Act, the federal government would cover 67% of this cost, while the states would be responsible for the remaining 33% of the cost…” (See entire proposal at post bottom).

Excerpt from Obama’s 2017 budget: “Support for Higher Education in the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget The 2017 budget continues on the path of helping to ensure that students can attain a postsecondary credential without taking on more debt than they and their families can afford. It also supports an ongoing shift toward focusing on student outcomes in higher education, and, in particular, completion, so that both students and the nation can thrive in the global economy. As a result, the 2017 budget includes proposals to address college access, affordability, and completion:
* Funding America’s College Promise (ACP): A new partnership with states, this effort would provide $61 billion over the next decade to make two years of community college free for responsible students, so they can earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree at no cost. ACP also would fund grants to four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to provide new low-income students and minority students, including community college transfer students, with up to two years of college credits at zero or significantly reduced tuition.
* Strengthening and expanding access to Pell Grants. The President plans to:
* Ensure full funding for the Pell Grant maximum award (estimated at $5,935 in award year 2017-2018) and to continue indexing the grant to inflation indefinitely, to protect and sustain its value for future generations…
” See more here. Photo at the top is students from Navajo Technical College, now Navajo Technical University: https://archive.li/RCoHM

A College Promise document: https://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/college-promise-playbook.pdf

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 09, 2015
FACT SHEET – White House Unveils America’s College Promise Proposal: Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students
Nearly a century ago, a movement that made high school widely available helped lead to rapid growth in the education and skills training of Americans, driving decades of economic growth and prosperity. America thrived in the 20thcentury in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world… Today, more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career. 

Today the President is unveiling the America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost.

This proposal will require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. The program would be undertaken in partnership with states and is inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. 

In addition, today the President will propose a new American Technical Training Fund to expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs similar to Tennessee Tech Centers that meet employer needs and help prepare more Americans for better paying jobs. These proposals build on a number of historic investments the President has made in college affordability and quality since taking office, including a $1,000 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award to help working and middle class families, the creation of the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, reforming student loans to eliminate subsidies to banks to invest in making college more affordable and keeping student debt manageable, and making available over $2 billion in grants to connect community colleges with employers to develop programs that are designed to get hard-working students good jobs.

The President’s Plan: Make Two Years of College as Free and Universal as High School
By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations.  They are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. For many students, they offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. They are also uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing, health information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

The America’s College Promise proposal would create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college. Restructuring the community college experience, coupled with free tuition, can lead to gains in student enrollment, persistence, and completion transfer, and employment. Specifically, here is what the initiative will mean:

Enhancing Student Responsibility and Cutting the Cost of College for All Americans: Students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their program will have their tuition eliminated. These students will be able to earn half of the academic credit they need for a four-year degree or earn a certificate or two-year degree to prepare them for a good job.

Building High-Quality Community Colleges: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that either
(1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or
(2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers.  Other types of programs will not be eligible for free tuition.  Colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes, such as the effective Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) programs at the City University of New York which waive tuition, help students pay for books and transit costs, and provide academic advising and supportive scheduling programs to better meet the needs of participating students, resulting in greater gains in college persistence and degree completion.

Ensuring Shared Responsibility with States: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. States that choose to participate will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate community college tuition for eligible students. States that already invest more and charge students less can make smaller contributions, though all participating states will be required to put up some matching funds. States must also commit to continue existing investments in higher education; coordinate high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions to reduce the need for remediation and repeated courses; and allocate a significant portion of funding based on performance, not enrollment alone. States will have flexibility to use some resources to expand quality community college offerings, improve affordability at four-year public universities, and improve college readiness, through outreach and early intervention.

Expanding Technical Training for Middle Class Jobs. Additionally, in order to spread the availability of high-quality and innovative programs like those in Tennessee and Texas, which achieve better than average completion and employment outcomes, the President is also proposing the American Technical Training Fund. This fund will award programs that have strong employer partnerships and include work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled to accommodate part-time work. Programs could be created within current community colleges or other training institutions. The focus of the discretionary budget proposal would be to help high-potential, low-wage workers gain the skills to work into growing fields with significant numbers of middle-class jobs that local employers are trying to fill such as energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing. This program will fund the start-up of 100 centers and scale those efforts in succeeding years. Smaller grants would help to bring together partners and start a pilot program. Larger grants would be used for expanding programs based on evidence of effectiveness, which could include past performance on graduation rates, job placement rates and placement wages. Building on the President’s community college initiative, known as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants and for which 2014 was the final year of funding, these funds will help community colleges become more job-driven.

Building on State and Local Programs.  In the past year, Tennessee and the City of Chicago initiated free community college programs.  In the first year of the Tennessee program, 57,000 students representing almost 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class applied for the program. The scholarship is coupled with college counseling, mentorship, and community service that early evidence suggests supports greater enrollment, persistence and college completion.  This is coupled with efforts to spur innovation and improvement by funding colleges using performance outcomes based on student success and an innovative approach to career and technical education through the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.  These Tennessee Tech Centers have a graduation rate of 80 percent and a job placement rate of 85 percent.

Building on a Record of Progress. Since taking office, President Obama has taken steps to expand federal support to help more students afford college, while calling for a shared responsibility in tackling rising college costs. Key achievements include:
* Doubling the Investment in Pell Grants: The President has raised the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,730 for the 2014-15 award year — a nearly $1,000 increase since 2008. The number of Pell Grant recipients has expanded by 50 percent over that same time.
* Expanding Education Tax Credits: President Obama established the American Opportunity Tax Credit in 2009 to assist families with the costs of college, providing up to $10,000 for four years of college tuition.
* Pay-As-You-Earn Loans: All new borrowers can now cap loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes. The Department of Education has begun the process to amend its regulations and will make the new plan available on all direct loans by December 2015. We expect it to benefit up to 5 million borrowers.
* First in the World Grants: In September, the Department of Education awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the new First in the World grant program to expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs.
* College Ratings Program: The Department of Education continues to develop a college ratings system by the 2015-2015 school year that will recognize institutions that excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds; focus on maintaining affordability; and succeed at helping all students graduate with a degree or certificate of value.
* Job-Driven Training Grants: Through the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training program more than 1,000 institutions have received $2 billion in federal funding to design education and training programs, working closely with employers and industry that prepare workers for jobs in-demand in their regional economies, such as health care, information technology and energy. These programs have shown early success — through the end of FY2013, among the nearly 164,000 individuals who had enrolled in these programs 88 percent either completed a program or continued the program into a second year.
* White House Summit on Community Colleges: In October 2010, the President convened community college leaders, faculty and students; business leaders; philanthropic organizations; and other workforce development experts for the first White House summit dedicated to the role that community colleges play in our efforts to increase the number of college graduates and prepare those graduates to lead the 21st century workforce. 
* Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness: Last August, the Department of Education launched a new $10 million Institute for Education Sciences-funded Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) that is working to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college readiness efforts across the nation. CAPR is documenting current practices in developmental English and math education to identify innovative instructional practices that improve student success.
* Call to Action on College Opportunity: Last December, the President, Vice President, and First Lady joined college presidents and leaders of non-profits, foundations, and other organizations to announce over 600 new commitments to produce more college graduates. Community colleges made commitments individually, and in partnership with neighboring school districts and four-year institutions, to build seamless transitions among institutions, develop clear educational and career pathways, implement strategies to increase student completion of STEM programs, and establish more accurate measures of student progress and success. 

US Congressman Ed Labor proposal:
The America’s College Promise Act of 2017

House Democrats firmly believe every American should have access to meaningful degree at an affordable cost that leads to a good-paying job. The skills and credentials necessary to succeed in today’s economy must be accessible and affordable for working families, and the accessible and affordable option for most Americans is at a local community college.

This bill will create partnerships between the federal government and states to make skills development and a meaningful credential affordable for all students – whether they are recent high school graduates or established workers looking to retrain to be competitive in the marketplace.

Under America’s College Promise (ACP):
The federal government will partner with states (75/25 percent cost share) to provide tuition- and fee-free community college to all students.

o Students must attend school on a part-time basis and maintain satisfactory academic progress at a minimum.

o States must make evidence-based reforms of their public higher education systems, ones that are focused on improving completion and other student outcomes.

The federal government will provide grants to cover a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students enrolling at qualifying Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

o Students must attend school on a part-time basis and make satisfactory academic progress at a minimum.

o In return the MSIs must undertake reforms focused on improving completion and other student outcomes.

What ACP Means for America’s Working Families: Students have access to the skills and credentials necessary to get ahead in the workplace at an affordable cost;
Low-income students may attend two years at a community colleges and two years at an eligible four-year MSI and receive significant tuition and fee grant aid for their whole college career;

All students, not just first-time full-time students, will have access to tuition and fee free programs at community colleges; and

Students who wish to pursue a four year degree will have an easier path to do so, while students looking to get a credential for a new job can do that and then return to the job market.” https://edlabor.house.gov/download/americas-college-promise-act-of-2017-fact-sheet

Summary of Sen. Sanders’ College for All Act

Eliminate Undergraduate Tuition at 4-year Public Colleges and Universities. This legislation would provide $47 billion per year to states to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities.

Today, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Under the College for All Act, the federal government would cover 67% of this cost, while the states would be responsible for the remaining 33% of the cost.

To qualify for federal funding, states must meet a number of requirements designed to protect students, ensure quality, and reduce ballooning costs. States will need to maintain spending on their higher education systems, on academic instruction, and on need-based financial aid. In addition, colleges and universities must reduce their reliance on low-paid adjunct faculty.

States would be able to use funding to increase academic opportunities for students, hire new faculty, and provide professional development opportunities for professors.

No funding under this program may be used to fund administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid, or the construction of non-academic buildings like stadiums and student centers.

Student Loan Reforms

Restoration of Historically Low Student Loan Interest Rates. The College for All Act would lower student loan interest rates by restoring the formula which was in effect until 2006. Student loan interest rates would be cut almost in half for undergraduate students, dropping from 4.32% to just 2.32%. In addition, the legislation would ensure rates never rise above 8.25%.

Student Loan Re-financing. The College for All Act would enable borrowers to refinance their loans based on the interest rates available to current students.

Work Study Reforms. Today, the federal work study program receives less than $1 billion per year, and serves nearly 700,000 students. This legislation would expand the number of students and colleges that can offer part-time employment and participate in the federal work study program, and focus funding on schools that enroll high numbers of low-income students.

Simplifying the Student Aid Application Process. The bill would create a pilot program to eliminate the requirement that students re-apply for financial aid each year, simplifying the application process and removing significant barriers faced by low-income students.

Fully Paid for by Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street. This legislation is offset by imposing a Wall Street speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators of 0.5% on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. It has been estimated that this provision could raise hundreds of billions a year which could be used not only to make tuition free at public colleges and universities in this country, it could also be used to create millions of jobs and rebuild the middle class of this country. https://www.sanders.senate. gov/download/collegeforallsummary/?inline=file

Promoting Tuition-Free Programs to Undocumented Students
States are embracing undocumented immigrant students as colleges expand tuition-free programs
“. By Ashley A. Smith March 12, 2019, Inside Higher Education: https://archive.li/rbN9W

Pell Grant: https://www2.ed.gov/finaid/prof/resources/data/pellinst1718.xlsx