In a 1,661-word essay in The Huffington Post, Richard Eskow, a senior fellow at the progressive Campaign for America’s Future, argues that “free higher education is an affordable dream” and “not an unaffordable fantasy,” if only Americans would wise up and soak the rich with higher taxes.
In the essay, published on Thursday, Eskow compares the right to a totally free college education “for all those who would benefit from it” to other social struggles, including women’s equality, marriage equality and the abolition of slavery.
“I believe the moment will come, perhaps very soon, when we as a society will ask ourselves: How can we deny a higher education to any young person in this country just because she or he can’t afford it?” he declares.
The former Wall Street executive and one-time musician notes that higher education in the United States is “extremely expensive”—possibly the most expensive in the world, and at least in the top three.
“If public colleges and universities were to be made available to qualified students without charging tuition, the total annual cost would be an estimated $62.6 billion,” he asserts.
The lefty think-tanker says government aid to students totals $69 billion each year. He admits, however, that a large chunk of that figure goes toward aid provided to students who attend private colleges and universities.
Eskow then gets to the heart of the matter. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he writes. “Doing this the right way would require increased government spending.” A great deal more bureaucracy would also be necessary “for better coordination between state budgets and federal expenditures.”
“How much will it cost? We can’t know.”
The mysterious extra cost is small potatoes, though, compared to the benefits free college would supposedly bring. Those benefits include “higher income” which leads to “higher spending, and therefore to “economic growth.” Also, vast economic stimulus will surely follow if the government eliminates future student debt—and, hell – why not? – writes down “the total student debt outstanding in this country” of $1.2 trillion.
The best part about Eskow’s free college dream is that fancypants rich people are going to pay for it all.
For example, a bill called the Fairness in Taxation Act, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, would raise tax rates “for millionaires and billionaires” “to a modest top rate of 49 percent.” Eskow also swears that closing tax loopholes will more than provide the needed cash for his ambitious plan.
Consequently, colleges and universities can “produce the musicians, writers, philosophers, scientists, and visionaries” – the Richard Eskows, frankly – “of tomorrow” without encumbering them with high tuition or massive debt.
Eskow’s plan is one of many ideas in the current political ether in response to ever-spiraling tuition and massive student debt.
For example, a bill introduced in the Michigan state legislature calls for free tuition for all students who agree to pay a fixed percentage of their incomes to the state for a certain number of years.
The rate would be 2 percent for community college students and 4 percent for university students—for 20 years, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Similar pay-it-forward tuition plans are currently on the table in legislatures in almost two dozen states.