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From a comment: “[….] If really rich people paid their fair share of taxes, no one would care if their kids went to free public college[.]”

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Access and Equity
October 4, 2018
by Michael Mitchell, Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, Samantha Waxman

A decade since the Great Recession hit, state spending on public colleges and universities remains well below historical levels. Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the school year ending in 2018 was more than $7 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. (See Figure 1.) In the most difficult years after the recession, colleges responded to significant funding cuts by increasing tuition, reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses.

The promise to past generations of students in America has been that if you work hard and strive, public colleges and universities will serve as an avenue to greater economic opportunity and upward mobility. For today’s students — a cohort more racially and economically diverse than any before it — that promise is fading.

Rising tuition threatens affordability and access leaving students and their families –– including those whose annual wages have stagnated or fallen over recent decades — either saddled with onerous debt or unable to afford college altogether. This is especially true for students of color (who have historically faced large barriers to attending college), low-income students, and students from non-traditional backgrounds. Higher costs jeopardize not only the prospects of those individual students but also the outlook for whole communities and states, which are increasingly reliant on highly educated workforces to grow and thrive.

To build a prosperous economy — one in which the benefits of higher education are broadly shared and felt by every community regardless of race or class — lawmakers will need to invest in high-quality, affordable, and accessible public higher education by increasing funding for public two- and four-year colleges and by pursuing policies that allow more students to pursue affordable postsecondary education. By doing so, they can help build a stronger middle class and develop the entrepreneurs and skilled workers a strong state economy needs.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) [2019 file photo].

On Twitter yesterday, directed at Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D):

Chris Geidner @chrisgeidner
Today is revealing who Pete is as clearly as anything else he’s done during this campaign, and it’s remarkably disappointing. This disingenuous BS is turning the Democratic vision of governing on its head. And both Pete and Lis know that, which makes it all the worse.

Lis Smith @Lis_Smith
If you think that a worker who didn’t go to college should pay for college for a CEO’s kid, then @PeteButtigieg isn’t your candidate. [….]

2:56 PM · Nov 29, 2019

Chris Geidner continued:

If you put Pete and Lis in the middle of any great moment of the expansion of the Democratic vision for America, today’s argument would have been not to do more and make America better, but too do less, and expect less, and be less.

All I keep doing is transporting Pete and Lis into the era of the New Deal and the Great Society and becoming more and more disappointed in this disingenuous line of attack.

A vision of providing for all—whether it be education, health care, retirement, social security, infrastructure, transit, libraries—means all. This vision of exclusion being pushed by Pete & Lis undermines the entire Dem governing argument for WHY government should provide these.

Dems arguing that those who want to provide a service to all are “paying for billionaires” is so dispiriting to see. Pete & Lis arguing for the merits of Pete’s proposal as more workable or realistic is one thing, but arguing that doing more is BAD is an awful Dem position.

It’s their argument that is turning, in my words, the Democratic vision of governing on its head — not Pete’s proposal in and of itself. That’s why I didn’t say anything about it until they decided to argue that doing more, covering all, was actually bad policy.

From Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s (D) campaign web site:

Higher Education
Freedom means access to affordable higher education.
Key Policy
Debt-free college

While higher education remains a clear pathway for much of the middle class, for too many–particularly for students of color and low-income students–those paths are littered with hurdles. We must make public college truly debt-free for lower-income families. We will do this through a state-federal partnership that makes public tuition affordable for all and completely free at lower incomes–combined with a large increase in Pell Grants that provides for basic living expenses and keeps up with inflation. Middle-income families at public colleges will pay zero tuition.

We will cancel the debts of borrowers in low-quality, overwhelmingly for-profit programs and invest $50 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving institutions (MSIs), which are critically important institutions that deserve more dedicated support.

Other Critical Policy Areas

Confront student loan debt
Provide more support for students entering public service
Ensure the highest degree of transparency and accountability for higher education institutions
Apply strict standards to for-profit higher education institutions

That’s all generically reassuring.