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Biden: Four Years of College ‘Should Be Free’

Vice President Joe Biden said four years of college should be free, rather than two years of community college.

“We’ve been ahead of the curve, except now people are catching up, no other country in the world had universal education for 12 years, including Great Britain, for the first quarter of the century and only until recently have they started that in China and other countries. Nobody has the great research universities we have,” Biden told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a speech at the organization’s winter meeting.

“So what’s the next logical move to stay ahead of the curve? 14 years. If I had my way, and could figure out how to pay for it, there should be 16 years; college should be free.”

President Obama previously announced a plan to offer two years of community college for free.

Sacramento Democratic Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, introduced Biden at the event, calling him “the hardest man in Washington” by mistake.

Biden, a former U.S. senator from Delaware, said he could not have his way because four years of college would be “tougher and more costly.”

Biden added that middle-class individuals often list the cost of education as one of the “greatest priorities that would change their lives.”

“If you’re like me, living on your salary and nothing else, try sending your kid to college. You get it, you get it,” Biden said. “When I did my financial disclosure statement, which I do every year as vice president, the Washington Post had a headline: It’s probable that Joe Biden enters the office of vice president with the fewest assets of any man in history. Seriously. I assume they were talking financial, not other,” Biden said to laughter from the crowd.

Biden, whose wife, Jill, is a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, said his financial situation is not the result of living on a government salary his whole life.

“I made the mistake you should not make. I said to my three children, ‘any school you can get into, I’ll help you get there,’” he said.

Biden told the audience 12 years of free education is not enough to compete in the 21st century.

“You all know, 12 years is not enough anymore in the 21st century of free education. No matter what your politics are, you know that’s true,” he said. “You know why we’ve led the world industrially and in terms of innovation for the past century? Because a bunch of states back in the late 1890s, starting with New York and Massachusetts and others, said, ‘you know what, we’re going to have universal education in our states, 12 years free, no matter how long it takes you,’” Biden said to laughter.

“I’m serious, because if you said 12 years and you’re out, we would be in a very different place,” he added.

Biden called on Republicans to work with Democrats to pass infrastructure legislation. He also pitched the Obama administration’s plan to offer early childhood education tax credits to qualifying families.

“This isn’t a social program to be nice to – this is an economically productive initiative so that’s why we did the $3,000 childcare tax credit,” he said.

Referring to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Biden recommended looking at “tax expenditures that have no productive value” as a way to pay for the early childhood education program.

Biden also argued for a higher capital gains tax.

“Trust fund folks are good folks; the last thing they need is another $210 billion dollars. I’m not joking, seriously,” Biden said.