Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has proposed offering free college tuition to those families earning under $100,000 dollars a year as part of a larger package of economic policies aimed at helping the working and middle classes.
The initiative doesn't go as far as the no-strings-attached free college offering proposed by both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but does also include reduced tuition at public universities for families earning $100,000 to $150,000, The Washington Post reports. He also proposes expanding Pell Grants to additionally help lower income students pay for housing and fees, as well as investing $50 billion in historically black colleges and universities.
His economic plan also includes lowering housing, child care, health care, and prescription drug costs, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, holding employers accountable for violating labor laws, and increasing the tax credit for the working poor. He plans to pay for the costs of these initiatives by raising taxes on the top 1% of earners.
Buttigieg has been labeled a more centrist candidate as compared to the more progressive members of the Democratic primary field: Sanders and Warren. This plan puts him to the right of both of them but to the left of Joe Biden, who has only suggested offering free community college.
Sanders and Warren have also called for student loan debt forgiveness, whereas Buttigieg has only floated the idea of forgiving the debts of students who went to "low quality" programs, such as many for-profit institutions.
When it comes to health care, Buttigieg and Biden back a public option that would allow those who wish to enroll in Medicare a path to do so while not eliminating private insurance altogether, whereas Sanders and Warren are in favor of Medicare-for-all.
"Pete is proposing plans targeted to making programs affordable for the middle class and below, not giving it free to everyone,” said Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to Buttigieg who served as a chief economist for President Barack Obama.
Not everyone is impressed with his plan, as $100,000 goes a lot further in certain parts of the country than others, making the cutoff somewhat arbitrary.
"A $100,000 income ceiling is a lot of money in some states and not very much in others,” said Michelle Miller-Adams, a senior researcher at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.