Progressives Fire Back at Buttigieg's 'Bad Faith' Claim That Tuition-Free College Proposals Are Elitist
Progressives and supporters of tuition-free public college plans on Wednesday denounced South Bend, Indiana Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s recent claim that offering a free public college education furthered an “elitist” worldview.
At a campaign stop in South Carolina on Monday, Buttigieg told the press that plans to offer public college to all Americans tuition-free push a “narrative” that one must attend college to succeed in the United States.
“Where I come from, three out of four people don’t have a college degree,” the South Bend, Indiana mayor told NBC reporter Priscilla Thompson. “And if the message we’re sending to them is that you need a college degree in order to get by in life, in order to prosper, in order to succeed, we’re leaving most Americans out.”
Buttigieg’s communications adviser, Lis Smith, added on Twitter that the plans of Buttigieg’s primary rivals, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), to make public college accessible to all Americans, represented “the height of elitism.”
Several officials on Sanders’s presidential campaign took issue with that characterization, noting that the senator’s public college proposal explicitly included tuition-free trade school enrollment, which, like two- and four-year college, would be funded by a Wall Street speculation tax.
“Bernie’s plan also explicitly eliminates existing trade school debt—and Buttigieg’s plan does not,” wrote Sanders speechwriter David Sirota in his newsletter, “Bern Notice,” on Wednesday.
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Sanders has long held the position that not all Americans may want to attend a two- or four-year college, campaign spokesman Mike Casca told the Huffington Post.
“In fact, technical colleges and trade schools can be essential to the lives of working class Americans,” Casca said. “Unlike Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Bernie believes essentials should be guaranteed to all people—not just those who can afford it.”
Warren would also include technical schools in her tuition-free college plan and would invest $20 billion in apprenticeship programs for people who do not attend college.
Both plans contrast with Buttigieg’s proposal, which would offer free college tuition only to families making $100,000 or less annually. Subsidies would be offered to households making up to $150,000, but would not cover trade school enrollment.
As Common Dreams reported on Friday, Buttigieg has strived to portray Warren and Sanders as wanting middle-class families to fund the educations of wealthy Americans, an argument Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) rejected on Tuesday in an email to supporters.
Buttigieg “is focusing on the children of millionaires and billionaires who could pay for college anyway—even though that’s an incredibly slim percentage of people who attend public college in the first place,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote, adding that the mayor is engaging in “bad faith tactics.”
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