By Mai P. Tran, ECMC Foundation
With the continuing rise of college tuition across the country, the cost of postsecondary education is on the minds of many.
Among the many questions being raised is whether college tuition should be free. The idea, not without a doubt, has sparked debate between policymakers, educators, students and more. Some believe it’s a universal right and point out other developed countries that provide free access to college, such as Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, among others. Others, point out its impracticality because of its burden on taxpayers.
Though the issue is gaining traction, the concept and application of free college tuition is still in its infant phase, and its impact in the U.S. is largely unknown. We are waiting for information from state promise programs, such as Tennessee Promise, that are testing the application and impact of free college tuition. Until then, we won’t know the potential return on investment that states might enjoy.
While ECMC Foundation does not take a position on free college tuition, we value advancing knowledge to help further the discussion. In light of this, our foundation funded a research study conducted by the Campaign for College Tuition, looking into how much free college tuition would cost states. The report—How Expensive is Free College for States?—released in September 2016, presents a starting point for discussion on cost and whether this option might be viable.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS), it finds that the cost ranges widely among states: from $19.5 million in Delaware to $1.4 billion in California if funding were to be phased in for the entering cohort only; and $42.8 million in Delaware to $4.9 billion in California, should funding be extended to all current college students. Costs are broken down by each state and presented in the publication.
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