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Free Higher Education

The Time is Now for Free Public Higher Education!

Student debt sits at $1.3 trillion, and the average student graduates with $28,400 in student debt. Our system of debt-based higher education is completely unsustainable, and everyone knows it.

Rising costs are preventing students of color, working class students, and students from many other marginalized groups from attaining an education. Campuses are becoming less diverse, which creates inequality inside and outside of campus. At the same time, we are facing deep social crises around racial, economic, environmental and other forms of injustice. Now more than ever, we need our universities to serve us by developing the leaders of tomorrow.

Investing in education is a proactive response to the complex dilemmas facing this country. Free Higher Education is about restoring opportunities to marginalized communities. It is about empowering the next generation of leaders to build a just and stable future.

Theory of Change

As students, it is our duty to lead in this fight. This fall, USSA is launching a multi-year campaign to create broad public support for free higher education in the United States, with the goal of winning a free higher education system within the next five to ten years. Getting to a free public education system that is just and holistic will require constant pressure and deep organizing. We seek to win by:

  • Changing hearts and minds: We need to build mass public support in order to win. This means conducting large-scale campus education and base-building efforts for 2015-2016 to build capacity and momentum.
  • Exercising power with mass disruptive action: High-profile direct actions that create moments of crisis, polarizing the public in favor of our demands and generating outrage against bad policies like budget cuts & tuition hikes.
  • Elevating the issue of free higher education in the 2016 Election:
    • Use direct actions to target Presidential, Senate, and gubernatorial candidates.
    • Evaluate various politicians’ plans for “free” or “debt-free” education using shared metrics, and thus shape what those terms mean.
    • Conduct free education-focused voter engagement operations in 2016.

Campaign Principles

Free Means Free

Many politicians have been talking about “free” college, or “debt-free” college, or “free community college”. When we say free, we mean FREE. We want four years of tuition-free, public higher education, while expanding existing financial aid for housing, food, textbooks, transportation, and other costs of attendance. For those who can’t currently access higher education, Free Public Higher Education means opportunity and a second chance.

Free College as a Force for Equity

Rising costs, reduction in services, and problems of social injustice and representation on college campuses are preventing students of color, working class students, LGBTQIA students, survivors of campus sexual assault, and students from many other marginalized groups from attaining an education. Campuses are becoming less diverse, which creates inequality inside and outside of campus. This fight is about dismantling structural barriers to access and restoring opportunities to marginalized communities.

Education Is Not for Profit

We oppose all efforts to privatize university services. Privatization, through outsourcing services, industry-sponsored departments, and the student debt crisis, has increased costs while reducing the quality of services. We seek to eliminate profit-based models within the higher education economy, for the betterment of students and communities.

Restoring Democratic Governance to Our Campuses

Colleges are communities and should be governed by the members of those communities: students, faculty, and staff. Because students are the primary stakeholders at their universities, students should have the primary responsibility to preside over services concerning student life, including but not limited to student fees. Any free higher education plan should include shared governance.

Want to Get Involved?

Of course you do!

Click here to start a petition or find an existing one.

Click here to download our Free Higher Education campaign toolkit.

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