Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Timberjay: Nolan joins push for tuition-free public college

Apr 11, 2017
In The News

REGIONAL— Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan has joined forces with Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce legislation that would make public colleges and universities in the U.S. tuition-free for families with an income under $125,000.

The bill would also make community colleges tuition-free for all income levels.

The measure, dubbed the Free College for All Act, is unlikely to advance in the current Congress, nor is it likely to win support from President Trump, who recently settled a $25 million lawsuit for allegedly scamming students at Trump University, one of the growing number of for-profit colleges in the country.

A little over a year ago, free public college tuition proved a potent issue in Sanders’ primary challenge of eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and progressive Democrats are confident it will prove equally helpful as they work towards a political rebound in 2018. Sanders and other progressive Democrats argue that public higher education should be viewed as a right, just as free public education through high school is now taken for granted.

Nolan, speaking for the bill during a nearly hour-long news conference, noted that the measure is a reflection of priorities. “We spend six trillion dollars on these endless wars of choice in the Middle East,” said Nolan. “For 1.3 of those trillion, we could have graduated every kid in America from college debt-free.”

Sanders, speaking to a packed Senate chamber, noted that it is not enough for progressives just to say no. “Our job is not just to resist all of Trump’s dumb proposals, including his proposed cuts in higher education,” said Sanders. “Our job is to bring forth a progressive agenda, which represents young people, and old people, working people, and poor people. Because when we stand together and not allow Trump and his friends to divide us up, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

The measure would have the federal government pay 67 percent of the costs of tuition subsidies, while asking states and tribes to pay the rest. The cost of the measure is estimated at $600 billion over ten years, a cost that bill sponsors propose to pay for through a tax on Wall Street speculation.

The bill would also end the government’s ability to profit off of student loans, with any excess revenue from loan repayment earmarked for Pell Grants.

The United States Students Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and other groups have endorsed the measure, which has also attracted 19 co-sponsors, including five senators and fourteen members of the House. Minnesota’s Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison is a co-sponsor in addition to Nolan.