We must fundamentally reform the way the country finances higher education in order to make college tuition free for today’s generation and future generations of young Americans.
Step 1. Federal dollars are redirected to create an National Promise Scholarship (NPS) program that would provide every academically qualified student from a lower or middle income family enough money to pay for tuition at either a two or four year college.
- Students from families earning less than $180,000 per year who are accepted by a community college or other two year certificate program would be entitled to an NPS-2 scholarship worth $2,500 per year.
- Students from families earning less than $180,000 per year who earned a 2.75 GPA in High School and were accepted to a four year college program would be entitled to an NPS-4 scholarship worth, on average, $8,500 per year.
- Public colleges and universities would not be allowed to charge families who were residents of their state more for tuition than the value of the NPS scholarship established for their state.
Value of scholarships would be adjusted annually based on CPI.
- These scholarships would eliminate need for tuition tax credits and in some cases, Pell Grants, which would provide approximately $50B to fund what should become an entitlement program in the federal budget.
Step 2. Use Income Based Repayment loans if needed to cover student’s living expenses, repayable based on post-graduation income, and write off portions of principal upon completion of degree program as well as military or community service.
- Upon graduation, write off 5% of the amount of any student loans owed for each year of college completed.
- Double this write off for each person who completes at least two years of approved community service after graduation.
Triple this write off for each person who serves in the military for at least two years.
- Pay for these write offs by reducing the amount of profits the federal government currently makes on student loans.
Step 3. Create incentives for states to do their part to make college affordable by changing funding formulas, controlling costs, and using a “pay for performance” system for remedial education.
- Tuition levels for in-state residents should be tied to median family income or GDP per capita in that state, linking in state tuition to what the average family can afford.
- States should set price of tuition based on what it ought to cost, rather than actual or average costs per student, to push back against cost plus inflationary pressures.
- States should overhaul their existing delivery systems for remedial education and to the greatest extent possible invest resources at the high school level in the form of early student interventions that ultimately avoid payments for remedial education courses at the college level.
Revenue increases from more students paying more regulated tuition fees would help pay for these programs as would efficiencies from revised remedial education system.
- States should also use rising revenue from a growing economy to pay for any additional costs.
Step 4. Increase college enrollments and graduation rates by making an early promise to students to cover their costs of attending college, providing them with mentoring and counseling services in college, and incenting colleges to enroll and graduate “First Generation” students.
- Create a voluntary “Opportunity and Responsibility” curriculum to acquaint middle and high school students with the benefits of a higher education.
- Use matching Federal grants to encourage public/private “Promise Partnerships” to support and mentor students who are the first in their family to attend college.
- Create incentives from both federal and state government for colleges to enroll and graduate students who are the first in their family to attend college.
- Redirect current state and federal higher education expenditures to pay for some of these programs; use a performance grant approach at the federal level for the others.