In the richest country in the world, every person deserves a high quality education that best prepares them to succeed in their career and as a citizen. We should be incentivizing students to pursue the most education possible in their field so we have the best educated and skilled population on the planet. That means making all forms of public higher education free at the point of service, cancelling student debt, and recognizing all pathways in education. Higher education has become a necessity in nearly every profession so cost cannot continue to be a barrier for so many and we must provide students with the resources they need to succeed on whatever path they choose.
Higher Education for All
Every American deserves the opportunity to pursue as much knowledge as they desire without having to worry about cost as a barrier for entry. Given that college degrees and professional certifications are becoming almost a necessity to gain an entry-level job, we cannot allow the socioeconomic status you were born in to determine whether or not you are able to earn a decent living. Whether it is trade school, an apprenticeship, four-year college, community college, or any other form of professional training; every American deserves the chance to pursue their passion and to make a decent living. A majority of college students support making college tuition free for all students and even larger majorities support enacting tuition free college for families with incomes under $120,000 a year and free community college for all.
Cancel Student Debt
There is currently about $1.9 trillion worth of student debt in the United States. With the average borrower graduating with $37,000 in debt, young Americans are entering the workforce with a large amount of debt hanging around their neck for the crime of pursuing an education. This extreme level of debt is forcing young adults to delay or reconsider starting a family and in many cases is making it near impossible for them to ever own a home. No one should be punished for the “crime” of pursuing an education and over 75% of college students believe that some or all student debt should be canceled. President Biden has the power and needs to cancel as much student debt as possible. If he chooses not to, then Congress must take action to prevent our generation and future generations from being saddled with student loans for decades to come.
Early Childhood Education & Universal Child Care
If we want to ensure Americans are the best educated population in the world we need to start educating students earlier. In addition to the benefits of a well-educated population, expanding early childhood education and providing universal child care alleviates some of the larger costs associated with having children. By lowering this financial burden, more young adults who want to have children can do so without having to worry about whether or not they can afford it. In our polling (conducted in partnership with Generation Labs), 79% of college students said affordable child care would make them more likely to have children or adopt.
A Holistic and Honest Curriculum
A well-educated population does not mean being just educated in math, english, and science, but also being educated in civics and history. Students should graduate high school and be ready to become active and informed citizens. This means teaching them important skills like applying for a job, learning how to pay bills, budgeting, and so much more. They cannot be fully active citizens if they are not being educated on how our government really works and how public policy works. They cannot become fully informed if history is being taught differently in different parts of the country. This isn’t indoctrination. This is about being honest and reckoning with the dark history of the United States. This does not mean students need to hate their country, it just means that they should know the truth of the past in order to create a better future.
Fair Funding for Public Schools
It is a disgrace that in the wealthiest country in the world that your educational outcome can largely be determined by your zip code. We need to put to an end the practice of using regressive taxation like property taxes to primarily fund public schools. The federal government and state governments need to make education a priority and ensure that every child in America has access to a public school that is more than adequately funded.
Inclusive Special Education
It is important that our education system begins to recognize that all students have different needs without completely segregating students with disabilities from the traditional classroom environment. Our education system can still provide all students with the resources they need without isolating them. While every situation is different, we should not have students with disabilities only interacting and working with students with disabilities and we should not have students without disabilities interacting and working with only students without disabilities. By being more inclusive with special education students, we can expand opportunities for all students and better prepare them for the real world.
End Standardized Testing
There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that an hours-long test on a select number of subjects is the best way to evaluate a student’s intelligence. So many students are not good test takers, excel in a completely different subject area, are different types of learners, and to initiate one format to assess academic aptitude does not make any sense. While there are also preparation options for these tests, many have a significant price tag attached to them which puts students from low income households at a massive disadvantage. We must set a standard of evaluating each student holistically to allow them to pursue the best higher education and/or career options for them.
Universal School Meals
It is really quite a simple question: Does any student deserve to start or end the school day hungry? Students cannot begin to focus on their schoolwork if they are focused on how hungry they are. Public schools need significant increases in funding and that funding needs to include at least two meals for every student each day. The dystopian phrase “school lunch debt” needs to be eradicated from existence and we need to be committed to ensuring our students are given every opportunity to succeed inside the classroom and outside of it.
Being Honest about Health & Sex Education
Health, and specifically sex, can undoubtedly be an uncomfortable subject to discuss with young people but we are doing them a massive disservice by not being straightforward about it. The truth is that premarital sex is normal in the United States and our education system needs to be honest in providing the information and resources necessary to make sure young people are being safe, responsible, and respectful in their sex life. Abstinence-only education is not a responsible form of education. Students need to be educated on concepts like consent and contraception, then they can make whatever decisions they feel is best for themselves and their beliefs. Additionally, we need to do a better job educating students on nutrition and their personal health. This education should not pressure students to feel like they need to conform to certain beauty standards, but instead inform them on strategies to better take care of their mind and body so they can be their best selves.
If you’re interested in reading more, you can download the full Voters of Tomorrow Policy Platform.