education

How should the government subsidize two-year college?

Should be free

Should be free

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet supports free community college, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden supports free community college, a campaign spokesman told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker supports free community college, he told The Post. “Make tuition-free community college and vocational training a reality across the country,” Booker's campaign website said.

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“Two-year community college and career and technical education programs should be free for all Americans,” Bullock told The Post.

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

“Eliminate tuition at public colleges, universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational schools, breaking the work-school tug of war,” Castro's education plan said. “Share the financing of tuition costs with state governments and provide incentives to reduce the cost of college programs including fees, discourage underinvestment into public education by states. Require accountability and standards that include fair pay for all employees and staff, including adjuncts and non-faculty staff, and respect for their right to join a union.”

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Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“Delaney believes Pre-K through 14 education (two-year community college or technical training) is the new K-12 and that children should have it guaranteed,” his campaign website said. “Community college or technical education after high school can provide a crucial lifeline to young adults trying to find meaningful employment.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard co-sponsored the College for All Act, which would make four-year college free for middle-class and lower-income families and community college free for all students, and would lower student loan interest rates.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

Harris “believes that in America, your family’s wealth should not dictate your success,” according to her campaign website. It said she plans to “make community college free, make four-year public college debt-free, and provide an income boost to nearly 1 in 7 Pell Grant recipients through her LIFT Act, the largest tax cut for working Americans in generations.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. Hickenlooper supports free community college, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. “Governor Inslee’s approach will include making attendance at public college and community college tuition and debt-free for students from lower-income and middle-class families,” Inslee's campaign website said.

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Jay Inslee
Inslee

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar supports free community college, she told The Post.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O’Rourke “supports making community college free for every American,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan co-sponsed the College for All Act, which would make four-year college free for middle-class and lower-income families and community college free for all students.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders “believes the right to a good and free education is a basic human right,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “That means we have got to make public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs tuition and debt-free and cancel all student debt,” Sanders told The Post. “Every young person, regardless of their family income, the color of their skin, disability, or immigration status should have the opportunity to attend college. ... If we are to succeed as a nation, public colleges and universities must be tuition free and debt free.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“My plan also eliminates tuition and fees at technical, two-year, four-year public college,” Warren told The Post. Warren is also a co-sponsor of the Debt-Free College Act, which provides funding to states to subsidize student costs associated with college, including tuition, room and board and supplies.

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson

Author

“My governing philosophy is that all public policy should help citizens in their efforts to thrive and actualize their talents and creativity. If that is the case, their contribution to society will create the greatest economy and prosperity for everyone,” Williamson told The Post. “In addition to making community colleges and state schools affordable or free, we must also include trade schools for those who are changing jobs and upgrading skills.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Something else

Something else

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand’s “national public service plan would reward students with two years of tuition-free education at a community college or public university for every one year of public service they perform,” her campaign website said.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak told The Post he opposes free community college but offered proposals to lower costs. “1) Making federal aid and loan payments to universities and colleges contingent on their keeping tuition increases pegged to inflation, or lower; 2) Restructuring federal student loans so the government does not make a profit, as it currently does because the interest rate is based on the 10-year Treasury bond ...; 3) Increasing Pell grants; and 4) Implementing a national credit transfer system (since the average transfer student loses 43% of their credits, costing billions of dollars nationally.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

“All community colleges should be funded at a level to make tuition free or nearly-free for anyone, especially those who are taking vocational classes,” Yang's campaign website said. “The government can be involved, but businesses should also be encouraged to invest in their area’s community colleges, both to create stronger ties to their communities and better access to this potential workforce.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

Unclear/no response

Unclear/no response

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg did not provide an answer to this question.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. De Blasio did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. Moulton did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Seth Moulton
Moulton

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

“Without guaranteed access to a good education, there’s no such thing as equal opportunity,” Steyer's campaign website said. “Our government must protect the right to a free, quality, public education from preschool through college and on to skills training.” Steyer did provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

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Background In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton battled over how best to subsidize the cost of college. Clinton’s plan would have ensured that students did not have to take out loans, but still required contributions from families that could afford it. Sanders’s plan was free tuition for all. Since then, some have suggested even bigger plans — making tuition and fees free at public schools. There remains a divide as to whether the benefits should depend on students’ financial need.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. education policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their positions on an issue.

At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president or an exploratory committee. Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Fla., reported $0 in spending during the 3rd quarter of 2019. As a result, he is no longer considered a "major candidate" in the Post's 2020 coverage and has been removed from this project.

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