Students need a plan like Warren’s for the future

Elijah Helton, Opinions Columnist

The college-payment plan proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has two parts, so I’ll briefly address both of them.

First, the plan aims to make public college tuition-free. This idea sure sounds radical — especially in the United States, where we’ve slapped a market on everything — but it’s not crazy. It was at one point radical for any schools to be public, but today, it’s generally agreed upon that K-12 education is a good thing for the state to provide. (Yes, I know there are some people against public schools but that’s not the point).

A standard K-12 education isn’t cutting it anymore. For most of us, some sort of college is needed to be successful. And for most of us, it’s not affordable anymore. Average tuition has risen nearly 500 percent the rate of inflation since 1985, according to the website Inflation Data. The world needs more college students, but fewer can even think about going.

Do we need four-year college to be completely free as Warren proposes? Maybe not, but it’s definitely the direction in which we need to go. Perhaps it comes down to making two-year community college free and drastically cutting the price tag at four-year institutions.

The second part of Warren’s plan is debt cancellation. Basically, for those of us saddled with huge amounts of debt, our decades-long burden would be lifted.

If we’re so into markets and stimulating the economy, slashing student-loan debt would free up tons of capital. Don’t think of debt cancellation as just another lefty promise for new, free stuff. Think of it as a citizen bailout.

Now, do I expect either of these policies to be enacted? Not really — at least not in their current state. However, they are helpful for reframing the conversation around college costs and what kind of country we want to be. You don’t have to sign on for everything Warren says to know that at least some action is necessary for a better America.

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