New Analysis Finds Biden Free Tuition Plan Would Help Jumpstart Economy

Posted by Campaign for Free College Tuition on January 19, 2021 at 2:49 PM

A new analysis conducted by renowned economist Dr. Robert Shapiro finds that President Biden’s free college tuition program will significantly improve the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery. President Biden plans to eliminate tuition and academic fees for all community college students, and for in-state students from families earning up to $125,000 who attend four-year public colleges and universities. The research shows that under the Biden plan, nearly 2 million more students would enroll, graduation rates would rise substantially, and students and their families would gain $61 billion in annual disposable income.


“A high school diploma is no longer the key to a good paying job. In today’s economy, a postsecondary credential is the new gateway to the workforce and America’s community colleges are best positioned to make this a reality for the majority of hard-working residents. The Biden Plan to make a public community college education free for households earning up to $125,000 could be the best stimulus that Washington DC can provide to main street Americans.” - Eloy Oakley, Chancellor, California Community Colleges


The report finds that the Biden plan would:

  • Increase community college enrollment by 1.23 million students or by 18.3%.
  • Increase enrollment at four-year public universities by 1 million students or by 17.7%.
  • Increase total (net) enrollment in college by 1.96 million students.
  • Increase 4-year community college completion rates by 42.7%, producing 776,000 additional Associate’s Degrees.
  • Increase 6-year graduation rates among 4-year colleges by 15.3%, producing 558,000 more Bachelor’s Degrees.
  • Compared to high-school graduates, increase average net earnings by $27,200 for Bachelor’s Degrees, $6,400 for Associate’s Degrees, and $4,500 for students who attend college, but do not earn a degree.
  • Increase the annual disposable income of students and their families by $61 billion and increase the Gross Domestic Product by $139 billion over two years.


"The pandemic laid bare the consequences of making public higher education accessible but not affordable. Talented students are choosing between tuition and rent, books and food. This does enormous harm to our nation and impedes an inclusive economic recovery. Tuition-free public higher education is long overdue." - Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Sociology & Medicine at Temple University, and President and Founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice 


This report provides additional evidence for the growing body of research establishing that free college tuition can support local economic growth. Programs enacted at the state-level with bipartisan support such as the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect and the Rhode Island Promise have demonstrated their efficacy in increasing college enrollment, particularly for women and people of color, and leading to a more skilled workforce and stronger economy. Absent Congressional action, the budget shortfalls facing local and state government will cause tuitions to go up at a time when students and families can least afford it, exacerbating the harm caused by the pandemic recession.


“Free college tuition can have a transformative impact not only on students, but on the economy as a whole. The America that emerges from the Coronavirus pandemic will be markedly different from the country that entered this crisis. Both parties must make tuition-free college – which is already the reality in many red, blue and purple states – a priority in any economic recovery plan.” - Max Lubin, Co-Founder and CEO of Rise, and Morley Winograd, President and CEO of the Campaign for Free College Tuition


The Biden plan for free tuition provides a roadmap for Congress to wisely invest in programs that will provide both short term stimulus and long-term economic benefits.

Read the full report below!



The analysis was commissioned by the Campaign for Free College Tuition and Rise, a student-led free college advocacy organization.

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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.