As back to school shopping season gets into full swing (gulp, already!?), the cost of college is top of mind for many – and with good reason. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

That’s why Walmart’s announcement that it will pay for associate’s or bachelor’s college degrees for its 1.5 million full- and part-time employees is kind of a big deal. The nation’s largest retail employer announced in late May that employees will be able to pursue degrees in business or supply-chain management at three non-profit schools for just one dollar a day. The program, which is available to all Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club employees, will subsidize the cost of higher education. Degrees are being offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University in Irvine, California, and Bellevue University in Nebraska – nonprofit schools selected for their focus and strong outcomes on serving working adult learners.

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The cost of college tuition is beyond the reach for the majority of Americans. As the price of higher education continues to compound, Democrats have decided to take action. The Democrats have drafted a legislative proposal that calls for debt-free college.

A 2017 report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy determined that more than 70% of middle class and working Americans could not afford college tuition, even if those students were able to take out the maximum amounts of Federal student loans. Given that many jobs require a college education for a minimum wage, an unaffordable higher education has become a requirement for even the lowest standard of living.

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Students from families earning less than $125,000 in New York a year will be able to attend college for free. That's the promise of the Excelsior Scholarship, and it is part of a historic budget deal state lawmakers in New York agreed on yesterday. But there's a condition: Recipients will be required to remain in the state for a few years after graduation. That helps assure that New York gain the benefit of its investment in these students.

"This is the difference that government can make," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "There is no child who will go to sleep tonight and say I have great dreams, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get a college education because mommy and daddy can’t afford it. Every child will have the opportunity that education provides."

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via Flickr user Tax Credits

[DIGEST, Wall Street Journal, CNN]

On the heels of the college affordability plans proposed by her Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton just unveiled her own plan to help students attend college debt free. Her plan, the “New College Compact,” would provide federal dollars to states who increase their own spending on higher education.

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Stanford graduate students (CREDIT: AP/PAUL SAKUMA)

Last week, Stanford University announced that more accepted students won’t have to pay anything for tuition, which normally runs nearly $46,000 a year.

Students whose families make less than $125,000 a year and have assets worth $300,000 or less, including home equity but excluding anything that they have saved in retirement accounts, won’t have to pay tuition. Students whose families make less than $65,000 also won’t have to pay for room and board, which can run about another $14,100. Scholarships or grants will cover the costs instead, and the school has a $21 billion endowment. The thresholds were previously $100,000 for free tuition and $60,000 for free room and board.

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