At an Iowa campaign event this month, former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said he does not support tuition-free public college, according to video posted by the progressive political advocacy group Campaign for America’s Future.
"No. I am not for free college for all," O’Rourke said in response to a question during a campaign stop at Grinnell College.
Asked for further details about his position on college affordability, the O’Rourke campaign shared a longer statement from a town hall on higher education this month in Carroll, Iowa. O’Rourke said he supported free community college, and he appeared to back calls for debt-free, as opposed to tuition-free, four-year public college.
“I mention debt-free higher education if it’s a publicly financed, public-serving educational institution. And then for those who have accrued the debt, that $1.5 trillion, at a minimum, let’s refinance more of that at lower rates. And then let’s increase the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program,” he said.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, another 2020 Democratic hopeful, has proposed tuition-free public college for all students with family incomes under $125,000. Legislation introduced by Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, would provide debt-free public college for all students. The bill wouldn’t provide free tuition for all, but Schatz has said it would cover the full cost of attendance for needy students.
O’Rourke did not sign on as a co-sponsor when debt-free college legislation was introduced in the House last year.