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Fri Dec 23, 2016, 01:33 AM


The Fight For Free College Moves to the States

The Fight For Free College Moves to the States


How student organizers and a state representative are campaigning to eliminate tuition in Illinois.

Standing before a crowd of about 200 college students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 98-year-old Bea Lumpkin recounted her own college experience in New York in the 1930s.

It was “the bottom of the Great Depression,” the lifelong activist said at the October 7 gathering, and her family was on welfare. “Still, I was able to attend Hunter College for four years and earn a BA degree, and I did not have to borrow the tuition money. That’s because the city colleges used to be tuition-free.”

Lumpkin, a member of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans (IARA), an advocacy group representing retired union members, said her grand-sons have had a markedly different experience. “They have huge student loan debts, and I feel their burden,” she said. “It’s time to regain free tuition!”

Lumpkin was speaking at the launch event for Tuition Free Illinois, an ambitious new campaign that’s trying to make change happen on the state level, regardless of who’s in power in Washington. The coalition aims to make two-year and four-year public universities in Illinois free to in-state residents, regardless of income or immigration status. The average annual cost of tuition and fees at the state’s 12 public universities is currently about $14,000, up from $7,900 in 2007. College students in the state (including those who attend private universities) graduate with an average debt of $28,984, slightly higher than the national average....

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