State Costs for Making College Tuition Free Examined in New Study

Posted by Brian Newman on September 30, 2016 at 11:42 AM

The Campaign for Free College Tuition released a report detailing the estimated cost to each state of making their public colleges and universities tuition free.  The research authored by Mark Schneider, Vice President and Institute Fellow at the American Institute for Research (AIR) and made possible by a generous grant from the ECMC Foundation, establishes a baseline for state policymakers to discuss appropriations and the eventual return that they might expect on such an investment. 

Schneider stated, “The purpose of these calculations is to give each state some idea of how expensive ‘free’ is for them and thereby help taxpayers and state officials engage in a more informed discussion of this politically popular policy option.”

Using data derived from the US Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS), the estimate of total foregone revenues if free college tuition was offered to all in-state undergraduates ranges from $42.8 million in Delaware to $4.96 billion in California.  Data is also provided to show the cost of free tuition being phased in with one class.  

CFCT President and CEO Morley Winograd noted that while determining the “cost” of making college tuition-free can be done with such an analysis, more experience with the results of state promise programs, such as the Tennessee Promise, is needed to accurately estimate the revenue that a state might derive from the increased incomes college graduates will enjoy over their lifetime.  “We think it may be substantial as the W. E. Upjohn Research Institute for Employment Research found that the Kalamazoo Promise produced a return on investment of 11.3%, based upon that state’s tax structure and workforce skill levels, in the first ten years of the program.”

“With free college tuition programs currently receiving considerable attention, we think it is time for state officials to consider making these type of calculations for their own state. We hope Mark Schnieder’s work in calculating the cost side of the return on investment formula will help jumpstart that process.”

 

The research paper will be featured in CFCT’s Policy Research Center -- http://www.freecollegenow.org/policy-center -- which will be further enhanced later this fall with additional tools and research to assist policy makers ready to take on this important public policy challenge.

 

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A full copy of the Schneider report can be found here

About the Campaign for Free College Tuition

CFCT is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education.  We believe free college tuition is a goal that is supported by people of all political persuasions and are proud to have both major parties represented in our leadership.

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Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.

We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.

If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education. This website and CFCT’s educational outreach activities are made possible through generous individual and foundation support.

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