How will that work? Back in 2017, Senator Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt) introduced legislation for free college, and here are the details:
- Attendance at a public institution will be free for families making $125,000 or less, which Harris claims will benefit about 80 percent of all Americans.
- The federal student-loan program will remain in place, but interest rates on loans will be slashed to less than 2 percent.
- Students from low-income families can attend private colleges and universities that serve "underrepresented minority communities" (she probably means HBCUs) at reduced tuition rates.
- The Harris-Sanders plan will also help students "afford books, housing, and transportation, and other fees."
But here's the big problem with the Harris-Sanders proposal. Their plan would leave the current student-loan program in place.
The federal student-loan program is a colossal disaster, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos admitted last November; and it needs to be radically reformed.
Secretary DeVos said only 1 out of 4 student borrowers are paying down principal and interest on their loans, and 43 percent of outstanding federal loans are "in distress." The Harris-Sanders plan won't do anything to relieve the suffering of millions of Americans who are being crushed by student loans except cut interest rates.
In any event, Senator Harris's free college plan is never going to happen. It simply is not possible for the federal government to finance free college education to millions of Americans while we have $1.56 trillion in accumulated student loan debt--at least half of which will never be repaid.
However, there are specific things that Congress and our President can do to relieve the suffering of distressed student-loan borrowers, and I will support any presidential candidate who promises to "treat the wounded."
Two things need to be done:
1) Congress must eliminate the "undue hardship" language from the Bankruptcy Code so that overburdened college debtors can discharge their student loans in the bankruptcy courts.
2) The for-profit-college industry must be shut down.
Kamala Harris says she is "for the people." And in fact, she aggressively prosecuted Corinthian Colleges, a predatory for-profit college racket, when she was California's attorney general. Her office obtained a billion dollar judgment against Corinthian, which filed for bankruptcy and shut down.
Nevertheless, as a presidential candidate, Harris must continue to attack the sleazy for-profit industry. And she should endorse bankruptcy relief for millions of honest Americans who have been victimized by student loans.
Right now, Harris's higher education platform is nothing more than "Free beer tomorrow." Let's see if she proposes substantive reforms for the federal student-loan program and a serious crackdown on the for-profits.