Who doesn’t love getting those emails from Gonzaga University that remind you tuition for the next semester is due?

Well, after next November, that could be a thing of the past. Well, sorry, not for GU students. Two presidential candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders,  champion free college for people attending public two-and-four-year schools.

If one of these two presidential candidates  are elected, we may see big changes in the higher education system in the United States. Sanders proposes free public college and erasing all student loan debt, which amounts to roughly $1.5 trillion in the U.S. His plan would cancel all student debt regardless of household income or wealth. Warren’s plan follows the same basic blueprint, but with the notable difference that households earning above $250,000 annually would be ineligible for debt relief.

Everyone can get behind student debt forgiveness. It would make around 44 million Americans currently in debt very happy. Obviously, those monthly debt payments will have to be shifted elsewhere (as the banks will want their loans back). The likely result would be a hefty tax increase which would be placed on high-income households, according to both candidates plans.

The question that has to be asked, especially by GU students, is what would happen to private schools in 2021?

“GU would need to pay attention to the proposals as they get developed to make sure that we are positioned to utilize the programs to benefit enrolled and prospective students,” said Jim White, the dean of financial services at GU. 

White sees this as an evolving issue and not something that would be implemented all at once. White also brought up another good point: that there isn’t a lot of information available.

Warren and Sanders have done an excellent job of catching the headlines in the 2020 presidential race. Saying things like “free college for everyone” is sure to create a lot of buzz in the U.S.

When you look at the proposals that they have on this topic, there isn’t much there. Sure, it’s still a year before people around the country will be casting their votes. But saying “free college” over and over again without a concrete plan is simply a soundbite.

Can you really blame them? Saying unique/controversial things is how candidates separate themselves from the pack in our post Trump-campaign political system.

The plans laid out by Warren and Sanders include more help to low income students, but, at least in Sanders’ plan the state will be required to foot at least a part of the bill.

All of that aside, White also said that GU could still attract low-income students: “Assuming that many of our students would qualify for the increase in aid, it could help us in attracting low income students.”

According to Sanders' official campaign website, his proposal will “… match any additional spending from the states and tribes which reduces the cost of attending school at a dollar for dollar rate.” 

His policy is heavily reliant on state cooperation for students to get the financial aid that they need in order to attend schools like GU.

So the question shouldn’t really be what will happen to GU and other private schools. It should be a question of whether either candidates plan would even work. 

But the mere imagination of the thought of "free college" is solely dependent on either Warren or Sanders becoming the 46th president next year. 

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