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Making College Debt Free with the Schatz Bill

Debt free college could be closer than you think.

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A new bill has been introduced into the Senate aimed at making higher education free for students. This bill could make free college for students a reality. The Schatz Bill (also referred to as the Debt-Free College Act) was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). Currently it has been co-sponsored by thirty-two other senators and representatives from varying states.

Some states already have programs, such New York State’s Excelsior Program, designed for in-state students going to state universities (SUNY or CUNY). However, this program is fairly limited, as there are no resources for private schools or out-of state-students attending college in New York. Other states have grant programs to help subsidize the cost of universities, like California’s CalGrants Program. However, this state program does not guarantee free tuition for qualified students but only offers additional grants.

Schatz noted  that while the cost of tuition itself is fairly affordable (about $9,000), factoring in cost of housing, books, and food makes that number much higher (over $20,000). And this is only an estimate for public school with in-state tuition–students attending private schools or schools out of their state of residence pay much higher rates. Additionally, tuition typically makes up for less than half of the cost of college.

This bill, if passed, would give states dollar-for-dollar matches from the federal government for funding put into their state colleges. Vox noted how states have spent less on higher education they have have in the past, which has only hurt the students attending the schools. On a national level, total student loan debt is second only to total US mortgage debt.

If passed, this bill would be a step towards making affordable education a right for students rather than a privilege.

Nicole Masaki is a current student at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and is graduating in May 2018. She is a triple major in English, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy.

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