State College and Universities

Tuition Free, Debt Free.

SUMMARY: Rinaldo Del Gallo believes that our state colleges and universities should be tuition free and debt free.  The fees that are often imposed in lieu of tuition also ought to be eliminated.  This should be paid for by taxes on the super-rich.

Not everyone knows it, but college used to be relatively affordable in America.  In the 60’s and 70’s, state tuition was very low.  The GI bill brought low cost, if not free, education to an entire generation of troops returning home. Free education creates an opportunity for the poor to enter the middleclass, and helps the middle class stay in the middleclass. Bernie Sanders himself did not pay a lot of money for college. Toward the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th Century, only the wealthy sent their children to college.  We are sadly returning to that day.

College is a public good and not just a private commodity.  We all benefit when people become educated.  We need to think of higher education not only as economic issue, but even an issue affecting any number of social pathologies associated with hopelessness and despair.


Consider this quote:
“Germany is the polar opposite to the United States in terms of costs of higher education. Germany’s higher education system is entirely publicly funded and its 2.4 million students pay absolutely nothing in tuition fees. Tuition fees in Germany were originally abolished in 1971, though they made a brief comeback from 2006 to 2014, where they averaged at €500 ($630 USD). But due to massive unpopularity, they were once again abolished.

These countries aren’t alone in having free higher education. Over 40 countries around the world offer free post-secondary education, including: Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Uruguay, Scotland and Turkey.”


So when college tuition used to be very low in the United States, and when it is quite common across the world, why do we have people that constantly assert, Democrats included, that low cost tuition is impractical?

It was once possible in America to offer low cost college because the wealthy paid their fair share.  But the cost of college education has soured 500% since 1985.  In other words, what would have cost $10,000 in 1985, now cost $50,000.


An increased tuition cost has not only affected private universities, but state colleges:
“Look back even further and you’ll find the average cost of tuition and fees has risen dramatically over the course of the last 30 years. From 1984-1985 to 2014-2015 the cost of attending private four-year institutions has risen from $12,716 to $31,231, while costs for in-state students attending public four-year institutions rose from $2,810 to $9,139, a 146% and 225% increase respectively. During the same period of time the median household income in the United States has only risen $6,710, from $47,181 in 1984 to $53,891 in 2014. With these figures in mind, and barring the possibility of a family spending 58% of their yearly income on a single year of schooling, students inevitably turn to financial aid in the hope of finding some way to fund their higher education.”


Consider this quote:
“The cost of college tuition has become increasingly unaffordable for middle class and poor families.
How have tuition levels changed over the past few decades?

Currently, average public in-school tuition rates are over $9,000 per year. This graphic shows the change in tuition costs since 1980:

According to USSA statistics, students in 1983 generally covered 23 percent of their own tuition costs. In 2012, they covered 47 percent. Part of this is due to a collapse in Pell Grants, which are scholarships for students that they do not need to pay back. When the Pell Grant program began in 1965, they covered 75 percent of tuition costs. In 2012, they only covered 32 percent.

But I know plenty of Baby Boomers who worked themselves through college. Aren’t today’s students just lazy?

In 1978, it was possible for a minimum wage worker to earn the cost of a year’s college tuition over the course of a summer. Today, that same worker would have to work full-time for an entire year – just to cover the cost of tuition.

Inflation is not the only factor that has raised the cost of college. In 1978, a meal that cost $5 would cost about $11.15 today – a little over two times more. But a year’s college tuition in 1978, which would have cost about $800, would today cost a student over $9000. That’s an increase of over eleven-fold. The financial struggle facing students today is real, and it is not due solely to inflation.”


But what if we had it in Massachusetts, especially here in Berkshire/Franklin/Hampshire/Hampden district?   First, we would have an incredible incentive for businesses to set up shop.  Not only would it create a pool of talented workers, but they could afford to have their own employees receiving continuing education.  Second, our poor youth would have hope, knowing they could afford college, making them less likely to engage in crime or drugs. Finally, people would not be graduating with mountains of debt.  Apart from being more humane, it would give college graduates more disposable income.

Consider this information from Bernie Sander’s website:
“In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end.
As President, Bernie Sanders will fight to make sure that every American who studies hard in school can go to college regardless of how much money their parents make and without going deeply into debt.”


This is not a radical idea. Last year, Germany eliminated tuition because they believed that charging students $1,300 per year was discouraging Germans from going to college. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens. If other countries can take this action, so can the United States of America.

In fact, it’s what many of our colleges and universities used to do. The University of California system offered free tuition at its schools until the 1980s. In 1965, average tuition at a four-year public university was just $243 and many of the best colleges – including the City University of New York – did not charge any tuition at all. The Sanders plan would make tuition free at public colleges and universities throughout the country.”


How to pay for tuition free, debt free colleges.
The money is there.  As stated in other parts of this website, using figures that Bernie Sanders himself often cites:
In America, the top 1/10 of the top 1% of the population has as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

The top 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans, almost ½ of our population;
Despite having the most productive workers in the world, our wages have gone flat while almost all new economic growth is siphoned off by the wealthiest.

The Walton Family of Wal-Mart, worth $ 149 billion, has more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans.
Simply put, we can pay for tuition free and debt free college by asking those that can afford it to pay more in taxes.  Consider this:

33 states have a graduated income tax: Massachusetts is not one of them.  We can institute a graduated income tax so the rich pay their fair share.


The top income rates were 90% during the Eisenhower administration.


If you click on the link below, you will see a history of the federal income tax, with its nominal rates (that is rates for each range of dollars earned).  As you go up and down the tables, one can quickly see the nominal rates for the wealthiest Americans has changed dramatically.

  • In 1915 the wealthiest paid 15%
  • In 1917, the wealthiest paid 67%
  • In 1918, the wealthiest paid 77%

There was a steady decrease in the top percentages.  By 1929, the year of the crash, the wealthy only paid 25% at highest nominal rates.

  • In 1932, after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected, the highest income tax rate was returned to 63%
  • In 1936, the very rich had to pay as high as 79%
  • In 1941, the top tax rate went to 81%.
  • In 1942, the top tax rate went to 88%, and the amount lowered to reach 88% was lowered dramatically.
  • In 1944, the highest rate, for people earning over $200,000 was 94%.
  • In 1950, the highest rate was 91%.
  • In 1953, it was 92%.

In fact, this 90% tax rate on the wealthiest Americans existed throughout the 50’s and early 60’s, our nation’s most prosperous years.

  • In 1966, the top rates went down to 70%.  This top rate of 70% lasted until 1981.
  • In 1981, when Ronald Regan was elected president, the top rate went down to 50%
  • In 1987, the top rate went down to 38.5%
  • In 1989, the top rate went down to 28%.
  • In 1992, the top rate went up to 31%.
  • In 1993, it went back up to 39.6%.
  • In 2001, it went 38.6%.
  • In 2003, it went to 35%.
  • In 2013, it went up to 39.6%

The bad news is that the rich are not paying their fair share, far from the historical highs of 90% in the 50’s and 60’s, when America was at the zenith of its economic strength.  The good news is that since the federal government is taxing the wealthy so little, that leaves more room for Massachusetts to tax income.

Whether it is the graduated income tax, or the so-called “millionaires tax” on incomes over $1,000,000 with just an additional 4% (trifling in the historical context), we can pay to make states colleges and universities tuition and debt free, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

And we are only saving the rich from themselves.  When the numbers of our poor dwindle and the middleclass swells, the rich can make more money—and that is why in the 50’s and 60’s we were at the zenith of our economic strength.   And while conservatives and many Democrats decry “class warfare” or criticize how impractical free tuition and debt free college is, we did it then, and today, many countries are doing it now.

Rinaldo Del Gallo will fight for tuition free colleges (including “fees” which are normally incorporated in tuition) and debt free colleges.

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