Free College?

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With student debt topping $1 trillion, a renewed call for radical change – maybe even free public university tuition.

In this photo taken Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, late light falls on Wheeler Hall, South Hall and the Campanile on the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif. This famously liberal college town is known as the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, but speech isn’t the only thing that’s free here. Whether you’re strolling the redwood-shaded University of California, Berkeley, campus, or slipping across the Oakland border for a dose of Golden State history, you can exercise your limbs and your intellect without giving your wallet a workout. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Buildings on the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif. in 2014. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Another college academic year down, another huge whack of college debt for young Americans. $1.2 trillion in college debt now in this country. Absolutely massive. The only kind of consumer debt not headed downward since the recession. In fact, student loans are up 84 percent.  Critics says it’s a yoke on the necks of a whole generation and more. Now there’s a call – and legislation on the table – to make public higher education, college tuition, free. Not cheaper, but free. Like Germany and Finland and more. Would that be wise? Crazy? Up next, On Point: College for free.
– Tom Ashbrook


Bob Samuels, President of University Council-AFT, which represents librarians of the University of California. He is the author of the blog Changing Universities and of the book "New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory after Postmodernism."

Tamara Draut, Vice President, Policy and Research at Demos, a left-leaning public policy organization. She is the author of "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead." (@tamaradraut)

Sandy Baum, Professor of Higher Education at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University. She is also Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and has co-written the College Board's annual publications Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing since 2002.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Sen. Bernie Sanders wants free tuition at four-year public colleges. Here’s why it won’t work - "Imagine graduating from college without a dime in debt. No monthly loan payments to Navient, AES or Great Lakes. No calculation of whether to take that dream job paying peanuts or settle on one offering enough money to quickly lift you out of the hole. That's the kind of future Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to create with his proposal for free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. But is it feasible? On Tuesday, Sanders introduced legislation that would eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and expand work-study programs to help students at private universities."

USA Today College: National student loan debt reaches a bonkers $1.2 trillion - "[S]tudent loans have increased by 84% since the recession (from 2008 to 2014) and are the only type of consumer debt not decreasing, according to a study from Experian, which analyzed student loan trends from 2008 through 2014. The analysis also finds that in total, a staggering $1.2 trillion is bleeding students dry. Of all of the open student loan accounts, says Experian, 39% ($417 billion) are in deferment (the period during which payments are not obligatory) and 61% ($727 billion) are in repayment. Of the consumers who are currently in the repayment stage, their average payment is $279 per consumer."


New York Times: Platiunum Pay in Ivory Towers - "Ideally, higher education is dedicated to values different from those that govern Wall Street and corporate America. It supposedly calls students to more soulful concerns, even to sacrifice. But that message is muddled when some of the people who run colleges wallow in payments and perks that would once have been considered vulgar....The Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed salary information for private colleges from 2012, the most recent year available, and found that Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received a package worth over $7 million. John L. Lahey of Quinnipiac University: about $3.75 million. Lee Bollinger of Columbia University: almost $3.4 million."

Samantha Power's 2015 Commencement Address At The University Of Pennsylvania

This program aired on May 21, 2015.


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