BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire latecomer to the Democratic presidential race, released a plan Tuesday to reform U.S. higher education and improve college access and affordability.
“At its best, higher education serves as an engine of economic mobility and a pathway to the middle class,” the new policy page on Bloomberg’s campaign site states. “Our system is not fulfilling that promise.
The former mayor of New York City notes that fewer than half of Americans have a college degree, and half of those graduates come from the country’s wealthiest families. With undergraduate debt levels more than doubling in the past decade, Bloomberg’s plan notes that the federal student loan debt owed by Americans today has eclipsed $1.5 trillion.
Bloomberg said he would help two-thirds of Americans complete degrees or earn the credentials and skills they need for well-paying jobs.
He pledged to make two-year public college tuition-free for everyone, and public four-year college free to low-income students, while also eliminating other cost barriers such as those for textbooks, meals, transportation and childcare. For the middle class, Bloomberg said he would make four-year college “highly affordable.”
Bloomberg’s plan expands Pell grants, a federal college subsidy, doubling the maximum grant to $12,690. He’d additionally establish a federal-state partnership to incentivize colleges to limit tuition hikes and “invest in evidence-based strategies to increase completion rates.”
Another objective of the Bloomberg presidency is to enroll a million students in work-based degree and credential programs by 2030.
Bloomberg’s media empire has made his name synonymous with financial news, and the wealthy mogul told supporters that education access fulfills economic aims as well, as improved college completion rates could boost the nation’s GDP by as much as 10%.
“As an entrepreneur and mayor, Mike created hundreds of thousands of jobs, diversified the city’s economy and maintained its technological leadership,” the plan says. “He’s launched innovative programs to connect people with training, good jobs and careers that became models for other cities and the whole country.”
To collect data on student outcomes, Bloomberg said he would push for the passage of the College Transparency Act and that he’d implement other pilot programs such as micro-completion grants for students nearing graduation, and an expansion of Pell grants for short-term training programs.
Committing to what he called “leveling the playing field” as well, Bloomberg said he’d ban legacy admissions and expand federal support for retention programs to help students graduate. His plan would triple the amount of direct federal funding to historically black and Hispanic-serving institutions, and establish an executive branch office to help minority-serving institutions access federal funding and grants.
Bloomberg also said he would reduce the cap on federal undergraduate student loan payments by 50%, allow borrowers to make income-based repayments, and forgive loans tax-free after 20 years.
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