Can Democratic candidates keep their promise of free college to the American people?

Can the Democratic party deliver on their promise for more affordable college tuition in the U.S? (File Photo by Katia Esguerra)

The progressive wing of the Democratic party is making claims this political season that many are wondering if they can deliver. 

Presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) both share core beliefs regarding hot topics such as universal health care and free college tuition.

Each candidate has varying ideas of how this would work if they were elected as the 46th President of the United States. It’s a wonder if this is a pandering attempt to garner the younger voters of college age or if it is political chicanery. 

What we haven’t considered is this: presidents can’t use executive orders to include the allocation of federal dollars. That designation belongs to the legislative House of Representatives. 

Sanders, an independent running as a Democrat, introduced the ideas of universal health care and free college tuition for public institutions and the cancellation of debt when he ran for the Democratic nomination during the 2016 election year.

Information published on Sander’s website lists key points, for the sake of transparency, in not so specific details, plans for debt free colleges, universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and even trade schools. Not to exclude, Sanders wants to provide money for private and non-HBCU institutions as well. 

Warren’s plan for college tuition is very similar in detail on her campaign website. But Warren takes her proposal a bit further by explaining a plan of how she expects to afford such an undertaking by taxing millionaires 2%.  

These are well-intentioned initiatives coming from a place acknowledging the disparities and barriers monitories families face concerning access and also understanding the economic gap between minorities and their contemporaries. 

Both provide great information, but the bottom line is the people need more information for one of the biggest questions in which voters are looking for answers, “How are we going to afford tuition?”

What we haven’t considered is this: presidents can’t use executive orders to include the allocation of federal dollars. That designation belongs to the legislative House of Representatives. 

Unless you have control of both houses of Congress, it would be almost impossible to sign into law a tax change of this magnitude.

If you are thinking to yourself, “if the current president can take from congressionally allocated money, why can’t progressive Democrats?” This is where you should examine the rule versus the exception concept. That behavior is antithetical to what should be expected and is not a basis for normality. 

Yet our progressive candidates are running on these ideals as if they are first 90-day initiatives. It’s just not going to happen.

If that doesn’t cause you to question the candidates, let’s not mention the current national debt of $23 trillion dollars. 

But who cares? 

At least someone has the gall to present a solution to one of the greatest financial crises of our time. Think about the conundrum; do I put myself in debt to pay for an education? Sanders and Warren appear to get it, but they need to do more to not only push their proposals to the American people, and they also need to get representatives in both houses to endorse their idea so people know they are really about the people’s business.

 

About the Author

Clifton Bullock
Clifton Bullock is in both his first semester at American River College and his first semester writing for the Current. He is a journalism major and hopes to obtain an associate degree from De Anza College before acquiring his bachelor's degree in political science/journalism from California State University, Sacramento. As a U.S. Navy veteran and a published author, Bullock aspires to join the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. for the next leg of his career.

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