New Organization Unveils Plan to Address Tidal Wave of Student Debt
WASHINGTON, DC — A plan to make public colleges and community colleges tuition free was unveiled today by Redeeming America’s Promise (RAP). RAP is a new nonprofit organization established to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to reform fundamentally our nation’s broken system for financing the cost of higher education.
The plan unveiled is, in part, inspired by promise scholarship programs in Kalamazoo, MI and El Dorado, AR. Earlier this year, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) took a similarly bold approach to address college access and affordability when successfully establishing a “Tennessee Promise” that uses proceeds from the state’s lottery to provide residents with free tuition at community colleges and colleges of applied technology.
Morley Winograd, former senior policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore and President of Redeeming America’s Promise, stated, “It is time to make Kalamazoo’s Promise America’s Promise. As postsecondary education tuition and fees continue to rise much faster than inflation, the ability of millions of families to afford the key to economic and social mobility has been greatly diminished."
"The goal of Redeeming America’s Promise is to make the attainment of a college education a possibility for every American high school student, without regard to her or his financial circumstances. Our plan to provide for tuition free college education at a public institution can be done without raising federal taxes or accruing additional debt by redirecting existing federal spending in support of higher education, significantly reducing the profits the federal government currently makes on student loans, and asking states to do their part to restore their support for higher education to historical levels.”
The cornerstone of Redeeming America’s Promise plan is the establishment of an American Promise Scholarship (APS) program that would provide every academically qualified student from a middle or lower income family enough money to pay for tuition at either a two or four year college. For a community college, the APS-2 would be worth $2,500 per school year, an amount greater than the average community college tuition level today of $2,285. The Baccalaureate Degree APS or APS-4 would be worth, as a national average, $8,500 per year, which is just under the current average list price for in state tuition at a public, four-year college of $8,893.
RAP evolved from discussions among a group of former elected officials and policy experts who wanted to make another contribution to America’s future. The discussions grew to include academicians, and Millennial and business leaders who are interested in finding the best way to address the challenges of college access, affordability, and attainability. The student debt tidal wave, that now exceeds all credit card debt, spurred RAP to revisit the fundamental underpinnings of the current student aid system, rather than just tinkering with it. Many students, years after graduation and being in the workforce, cannot afford to purchase a home or automobile because the loan overhang from college is so large.
At RAP’s Launch at the National Press Club, a bipartisan alliance of supporters was announced. Members include: James Blanchard, former Governor of Michigan, Congressman and Ambassador to Canada; Michael Castle, former Governor of Delaware and Congressman; Bill Halter, former Arkansas Lieutenant Governor; Ray LaHood, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Congressman; and former Congressmen Robert Carr (MI), Howard Berman (CA) and Dennis Hertel (MI).
Governor Blanchard stated, “The high cost of college tuition and the huge student loan debt are a national tragedy and a national challenge. We, in our generation, have an obligation to our grandchildren to stop this downward spiral of opportunity.” Blanchard spurred the creation of the first tuition guarantee program in the nation, the Michigan Education Trust (MET) in 1988, while serving as Michigan Governor. Over 100,000 Michigan students have participated in MET and received full tuition.
In only a month, RAP has garnered over 2,300 likes on Facebook and over 400 supporters. For more information and a full list of the plan’s supporters, please visit http://www.redeemingamericaspromise.org.