Socialist students in Illinois are petitioning to make college tuition "free" because they say doing so would stimulate the local economy.
The Democratic Socialists of America chapter at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale launched a Change.org petition titled "Make SIUC Tuition Free." The petition currently has more than 70 signatures of its 100 signature goal.
"The high of [sic] cost of tuition is directly causing lower enrollment at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale," the petition states.
"This hurts SIUC students, university employees, and the Carbondale community."
"SIUC Young Democratic Socialists of America asks the SIUC Administration to create a vision of growth including free tuition for all Illinois residents. Let's end student debt and help Carbondale prosper," the petition adds.
SIUC student Layne Ellingsworth told KFVS-TV that making tuition free would stimulate the economy.
“More jobs and more students means more money circulating in the local economy,” Ellingsworth said.
The SIUC YDSA chapter held a press conference on Friday to promote their petition.
"The need for comprehensive tuition reduction is critical now as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Eastern Illinois University both announced tuition-free plans aimed at students with family incomes below $61,000. SIUC competes directly with both universities especially Eastern Illinois University for these students at admissions time," the Facebook event description for the press conference reads.
According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website, the school will offer "free" tuition to some students beginning in 2019. Qualifications include the following, according to the university's website:
You're an Illinois resident (parents listed on the FAFSA are also Illinois residents)
Your family income is $61,000 or less
Your family's assets are less than $50,000
You're admitted as a new freshman or transfer student
You're under the age of 24
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Eastern Illinois University are both public schools that receive taxpayer funding. Earlier this year, bond credit rating service Moody's Investors assigned Illinois a credit rating one notch above "junk" status, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
SIUC chief communications officer Rae Goldsmith told KFVS-TV that making tuition "free" would not be sustainable "unless there's an alternative source of revenue."
"I don’t know how we could move forward with a free tuition economically," Goldsmith said.