Making Higher Education Affordable For All
Kamala believes that meaningful access to education is a pathway to the American dream – it is how we build a better life for our families and ourselves. In today’s economy, a postsecondary education is increasingly a necessity to secure sustainable employment with decent wages – but it shouldn’t have to be that way.
We know the ladder of opportunity is broken when students have to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt to attend college. Nationally, the Class of 2015 is the most indebted in history, as students take out loans averaging more than $35,000 by the time they graduate.
For the four million Californians with student loans, this debt often deprives them of the opportunity to take risks in their careers and encourages them to settle for jobs that provide a paycheck but little potential for growth. Worse yet, this debt delays or altogether prevents their families from making other investments later on in life like buying a home, starting a family, or saving for retirement. And for too many Californians, the prospect of incurring this debt deters them from pursuing higher education in the first place. It’s estimated that by 2030, California will be about 1.1 million college graduates short of economic demand – a workforce skills gap that could weaken our economy.
As Attorney General, Kamala fought for-profit diploma mills that are defrauding thousands of California students, leaving them with no job prospects and a lifetime of debt. In the Senate, she will fight to make college more affordable and find solutions to prevent college students from drowning under massive college debt.
- Free Tuition At Community Colleges: Kamala supports President Obama’s bold plan to eliminate tuition at community colleges and make the first two years toward a bachelor’s degree free. Community colleges offer students great opportunities to get skills and workforce training without the cost of a four-year institution or for-profit college. As Senator, she will support policies that create incentives for state governments to adopt free tuition at community colleges nationwide and streamline the process to transfer to a four-year university.
- End Predatory Practices In Higher Education: As Attorney General, Kamala prosecuted for-profit colleges that prey on students and leave them with a lifetime of debt and dismal job prospects. She sued Corinthian Colleges Inc., one the largest for-profit college conglomerates in the country, which lured in students with false promises about their future job prospects and left them with debt and hopelessness. In the U.S. Senate, Kamala will continue to stand up to diploma mills that take advantage of federal student aid dollars and the GI Bill but fail to give students the skills to succeed in the workforce. And she’ll fight for justice and relief for students, including veterans, who fall victim to predatory, profiteering corporate colleges.
- Refinancing Options For Current Borrowers: Millions of borrowers are stuck paying high interest rates, compounding the financial pain for student borrowers and their parents. All too often, students who are just trying to better their lives are left with few options but to take loans from unscrupulous private lenders with sky-high interest rates. Kamala supports allowing borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates and allowing those with private loans to consolidate them into the federal loan system.
- Increase Purchasing Power of Pell Grants: Pell Grants have long offered real help for many student borrowers in affording college, but over decades, they have failed to keep up with the rising cost of tuition. A full Pell Grant covers only $5,775 of tuition each year, far below the national average of more than $9,000 for four-year in-state tuition or nearly $23,000 for four-year out-of-state students at public colleges and universities. Kamala would support increasing the size of Pell Grant awards to ensure students and families can keep up with the rising cost of college and modernizing the program to ensure more equitable access to Pell Grants.
- Lowering Tuition At Public Colleges & Universities: Many colleges and universities have lost sight of their principal missions, resulting in sky-rocketing costs and increasing numbers of administrators, all while student-professor ratios have largely remained flat. Kamala believes that colleges and universities must be accountable for skyrocketing costs, and that we must address the underlying causes of rising tuition prices. She supports President Obama’s plan to tie federal student aid programs to campus efforts to enroll and graduate low-income students and allow them successfully to repay their student loans.
- Community Colleges Can Help Prepare The Workforce Of The Future: Increasingly it seems that a four-year college education is required to get ahead. Community colleges should play a greater role in preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century, so that when students complete their second year, they’re ready for good-paying, sustainable jobs in high technology, clean energy and other emerging fields, or they’re ready to transfer to a four-year institution. In the Senate, Kamala will bring the educational community together with the private sector and labor organizations and lead the fight to incentivize the development and implementation of curricula that will ensure community college students are prepared for high quality jobs upon graduation.
- Provide Our Veterans What They Earned: With more than two million Veterans, California has more Veterans than any other state, and we owe them the support and care they earned while wearing our nation’s military uniform. Over the years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued by scandal and budget crises, resulting in disgraceful levels of service and irresponsible delays in providing medical care and disability benefits. As Attorney General, Kamala formed a working group to fight scams and other predatory conduct uniquely targeting service members, and secured enhanced protections for active-duty and Veteran homeowners during the foreclosure crisis. In the Senate, Kamala will champion a robust VA for our Veterans. She will fight to ensure that when Veterans leave military service, they have the support they need to readjust to civilian life, including proper physical and mental health care. It’s unconscionable that 22 Veterans take their own lives each day. Kamala will bring together federal, state, and local government leaders plus Veteran Service Organizations and non-profits to ensure that every Veteran knows what benefits they earned and how to access those benefits. Additional outreach should be directed to our rural, minority, women, and LGBT Veterans who often access VA care and benefits at lower rates than others, especially since the issues facing women and LGBT Veterans are changing with their inclusion in combat roles and the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Kamala will bring her prosecutorial drive to the Senate to help clean up the VA’s scandals and make sure no Veteran waits unnecessarily for VA benefits. Kamala will continue her fight against the for-profit colleges that prey on Veterans, sapping their GI benefits and robbing taxpayers. Kamala opposes privatizing Veterans Affairs, and she will join President Obama’s fight to reduce and end Veteran homelessness.