In my view, education is essential for personal and national well-being. We live in a highly competitive, global economy, and if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. We won’t achieve that if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college while millions more leave school deeply in debt. We need to ensure that every young person in this country who wishes to go to college can get the education that he or she desires, without going into debt and regardless of his or her family’s income.
It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time when higher education was pretty close to free in this country, at least for many Americans. After World War II, the GI Bill gave free education to more than 2 million veterans, many of whom would otherwise never have been able to go to college. This benefited them, and it was good for the economy and the country, too. In fact, scholars say that this investment was a major reason for the high productivity and economic growth our nation enjoyed during the postwar years. And, in certain states, such as California and New York, tuition was so low that college was practically free for much of the 20th century. That is no longer the case in America, but free college is still a priority in many parts of the world.