could anyone be against free college tuition?
a mom-and-apple-pie issue. Millennials, suffering from
debilitating student loans, love it. Parents, who canít
wring enough out of paychecks to save for college and
retirement, see it as salvation. Many Americans who
believe the country will be stronger if young people go
to college and boost their potential and lifetime
earnings, embrace it too.
presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is running on it.
The other Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, doesnít
go as far as Sanders but favors more aid for low- and
moderate-income students, not everyone.
now, with election-year crowds cheering for college
student relief, the think tanks are taking aim at the
idea of free college for everyone, and the idea isnít
sounding as sweet as mom and her apple pie.
the Tax Policy Center, a respected think tank on tax
issues, knocked holes ó big ones ó in the funding
Sanders has been suggesting. Then the Brookings
Institution joined the critics.
leans left, so you might think it would be friendly to a
proposal that would free future generations from killer
thatís where Brookings takes issue. In a report
released Thursday by Brookings, Matthew Chingos
criticizes the plan for spending too much money helping
affluent and rich families and shortchanging the
low-income students who he says need help the most.
college would mean "spending billions on
upper-income groups that could afford to pay," said
Chingos, who is a senior fellow for the Urban Institute.
In his report, he notes that under the Sanders proposal
thatís been so popular with young voters, "the
top half of the income distribution would receive 24
percent more in dollar value from eliminating tuition
than students from the lower half" of incomes.
top half, according to Chingosí data, includes
families with incomes over $62,500.
many families close to that cutoff donít consider
themselves affluent and are struggling to get their
children through college, Chingos notes "there are
college is free for everybody," he said, thereís
less public money for the lowest-income families.
low-income students, "even free college isnít
cheap enough," he said.
argues that while Sandersí free college proposal would
eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges,
lower-income students struggle with living expenses that
end up costing even more than their college tuition and
fees. So relieving the students of those direct college
costs doesnít go far enough.
notes that families with incomes under $62,500 spend $18
billion out-of-pocket on living expenses. Thatís where
free college fails, he argues. Rather than giving
tuition and fees free to affluent and rich people, he
would like to see more funding go to lower-income people
for living expenses in addition to tuition.
addition, Chingos argues that free college for all
students will not be equal for all because more affluent
students pick the public colleges and universities that
tend to be more expensive than those selected by
lower-income students. In particular, many lower-income
students go to community college, where the average
tuition is $1,673. He contrasts that with a student at a
four-year college paying between $6,119 and $7,319.
free tuition, Chingos said the lower-income students
would save $1.8 billion in tuition costs but still need
to pay $4.5 billion in living expenses and other college
upshot is that dependent students from the most affluent
25 percent of families represent 11 percent of students
at public colleges, but would receive 18 percent of the
benefits if tuition were eliminated," he said. Yet,
students in the bottom fourth of income "make up 14
percent of public college students and would receive 16
percent of free tuition benefits."
lower-income students are living independently of their
parents. They go to school only part time as they
struggle to hold jobs to pay for college and living
expenses. Meanwhile, more affluent students depend on
parents, and 68 percent go to college full time.
a result, Chingos calculates, the top half of students
by income would receive $16.8 billion by eliminating
tuition costs, while the lower half could get $13.5
billion. Given the nationís current political climate,
free tuition isnít likely to be enacted soon, said
Chingos, but the cheering crowds during this election
are likely to keep the college issue on the table for
some time. Chingos said his research is a starting point
on the issue.