In the 1930s and 1940s when I was growing up, New York City had several prestigious colleges that were free to all students. In the aftermath of World War II, the G.I. Bill of Rights provided all veterans with paid tuition, free textbooks and a stipend for living expenses. But, in 2009, with the immense wealth of the United States college costs are zooming out of the reach of not only poor students, but many in the middle class. Barack Obama can find a trillion dollars to fix banks and the stock exchange, but there is nothing for college age students. Recent reports indicate that those in the age bracket 18-25 in the United States now rank tenth among students in other nations who have obtained a post secondary degree.
Let me suggest two strategies to provide free education for all Americans.
1. All graduates of high school would be offered the option of being provided a free college education including payment of all tuition, books, fees, and a monthly living stipend. In return the individual would contribute one to three percent of his/her income for the rest of their working lives. Money collected would go into the “Get College Now, Pay Later” fund which would accumulate these funds to pay the ongoing expenses of the program.
2. Any student who graduates from high school would be offered a free college education in return for “Public Service” for two years. Students could work in forests, urban area renewal, early childhood schools, elderly homes or even go overseas to work in schools needing teachers. Participants in the program would have tuition paid, textbook and fees paid, and receive a stipend for living. They would also have the option of two years of military service.
These programs offer an opportunity to compel middle class land poor youth the prospect of huge debts in order to obtain a college degree. If in the midst of Depression and war, the United States could offer free college education, certainly this could be offered in modern times.
Please write your Congressmen in support of these ideas.