The Case

As recently as the early 1990s, most students did not borrow to attain a degree. But now, nearly three-in-four graduates take on debt for a degree, and average debt for those who attain a bachelor’s degree has reached $30,000.

Returning to a debt-free system of public higher education would provide all Americans the option of attending a high-quality public college or university at a cost that could be met entirely through modest family savings or part-time student work. It is a promise upon which our system of public higher education was founded, and achieving it is all the more important in an era where we are asking more students to complete a postsecondary credential.

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Sign the Petition

We want to tell every candidate for president in 2016 that they need to introduce a plan to make college debt free.

Dear 2016 Presidential Candidate:

Rising student debt has dramatically impacted opportunity for the most racially and economically diverse generation in American history. It was not always this way and it can be different—before state disinvestment in higher education, college was considered a public good.

To receive my vote in the general election, pledge to enact a debt-free college plan to address this crisis.


The last year that most students didn’t have to borrow to get a degree


Outstanding student loan debt today


The average debt held for a bachelor’s degree today

Support for Debt-Free College

  • Student loan debt is hurting our economy by pinching household budgets and limiting the ability of graduates to start a business, buy a home, or even start a family.  It’s time to make debt-free college a reality again.

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  • When it comes to making college affordable, I'm hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea.

    Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

About Demos

We’re a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.