Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's make public education tuition free

The email below is from Jeff Bryant, a CREDO activist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Jeff started a petition on CREDO Mobilize, where activists can launch their own campaigns for progressive change. Will you help Jeff pressure President Obama and congressional leaders to create a plan to make public college tuition-free by signing his petition and sharing it with your friends and family?

CREDO Mobilize
Tell President Obama and congressional leaders: Make public college education tuition-free.

Sign the petition ►
Dear Jim,
Making public college tuition-free would only cost our country $62.6 billion, according to a recent accounting taken by the U.S. Dept. of Education. That's less than one-10th of this year's $631 billion defense budget.
The level of college student loan debt exceeds the amount Americans owe on their credit cards –- over a trillion dollars -- and the cost of higher education keeps getting higher. That's why I started my own campaign on, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker John Boehner, says the following:
Create a plan to make public college tuition-free. Rather than continuing to pour billions more into financial aid programs that often fall short of tuition costs and leave students deep in debt, lead an effort to fund tuition-free public college. The money is there but the leadership isn't.

Tell President Obama and congressional leaders to make public college tuition-free.
As a resident of one of America's college towns, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I constantly meet young people incurring huge amounts of debt to attend college. College graduates who borrowed money to pay for bachelor’s degrees granted in 2012 have an average student loan debt of $29,400, the highest average student loan debt ever on record. Seventy percent of college seniors graduated with debt in 2012.
Students who don't graduate often have it worse. Only 56 percent of students who enter four-year programs graduate within six years, leaving many with massive debt and without a degree. The percentage of graduates plunges to 22 percent when it comes to for-profit colleges. Meanwhile, the percentage of incoming students relying on loans is growing – from 47 percent in 2001 to 53 percent in 2009.
Making public colleges tuition-free and preventing further debt isn't just a smart investment in our future -- it's less expensive than what our federal government spends to make college "affordable" now. It's a lot cheaper than the $69 billion we spent in 2013 on Pell Grants for low-income students, and work-study funding, without even including federal loan subsidies.
If we can afford to pour billions into wasteful defense programs and endless wars without hesitation, and subsidize big oil, big agriculture, and other corporate enterprises, we can afford to make public college education tuition-free. The time is now to demand that President Obama and congressional leaders make it happen.
If you sign my petition and demand a plan to make public college education truly affordable by making these schools tuition-free, it will help us build public pressure on national leaders to take action.
Will you join me and add your name to my petition to President Obama and congressional leaders to demand they create a plan to make public college education tuition-free?
Thank you for your support.
Jeff Bryant
Sign the petition ►

Education — Civil Rights of the 21st Century

By James Castagnera

From John McCain’s acceptance speech, the line that stuck out for me was, “Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”
He went on to explain that for him that meant offering parents and students a choice among public, private and charter schools. That choice, of course, only has meaning if parents and students have a variety of schools from which to choose and the financial ability to buy into their schools of choice. More broadly, while the GOP presidential candidate is right about education’s central significance in the new century, his simplistic solution hardly scratches the surface.
In many major cities, high school graduation rates hover around 50%. In a few they dip below the .500 mark. This dismal fact ensures the perpetuation of what Karl Marx called the lumpenproletariat, which is to say, the ragged or rabble lower class. And this, in its turn, ensures perpetuation of the drug wars, gang wars and random killings that characterize our inner cities.
Meanwhile out in the land of suburban sprawl, teen obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and the random shootings that periodically plague our schools all suggest that affluence alone does not ensure successful students. Taken in this context, the issue of education expands to include family issues, such as divorce rates.
Labor policy, likewise, must be included in the mix. One of the great ironies of our new century is that, while millionaire professional athletes have strong labor unions, workers on the bottom rungs of our economy are often as exploited as their 19th century counterparts. Labor organizations, such as the Service Employees International Union, have a hard time organizing these folks, given the lopsided way in which our National Labor Relations Act is interpreted by the federal courts and bureaucrats. Union prevention and union busting are only another cost of doing business for many major corporations, which also outsource what were once the better-paying positions to Asian and Latin American sweatshops.
Immigration policy also must be addressed in any comprehensive approach to American education. The Supreme Court has said that the children of illegal aliens are entitled to attend public schools. The law remains unsettled as to whether or not such students are also entitled to attend public colleges and universities and, if so, whether they are also entitled to in-state residents’ tuition breaks.
More broadly, are immigrants filling jobs that Americans don’t want to do? Or are Americans declining those jobs because of the low wages, lack of benefits, and miserable working conditions? The use of immigrant labor, legal and illegal, at the bottom of the economic barrel perpetuates the conditions that make these jobs unattractive to anyone but immigrant and migrant workers.
Last but not least is the rising cost of a college education. Too many of our young people are graduating with “mortgages” on their diplomas. Inefficiencies plague the higher education industry. Despite being the only major sector of the economy that can call on its past customers —- its alumni—to continue supporting its operations, and despite substantial gifts and grants from donors and foundations, higher education’s tuition rates continue to outpace inflation significantly. Thus, the proliferation of large student-loan debts.
Yes, Sen. McCain (and Sen. Obama), “Education IS the civil rights issue of the 2ist century.” And it is a complex issue, entangled with equally complex and challenging issues of family, labor, and immigration policy.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2008

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