February 2024 Polling Update

Posted by Pj Amartey on February 08, 2024 at 11:26 AM

The Campaign for Free College Tuition’s latest poll, conducted in October 2023, shows continued consistency in the overall support of state free college tuition program. In the nearly seven-year period that CFCT asked the following question “Do you favor or oppose your state providing free tuition at public universities or colleges for anyone who is academically qualified?” overall support over 20 polls – which includes respondents who strongly or somewhat support the concept – has ranged from 70 to 81 percent. 

Our most recent poll indicated 78 percent overall support of the concept which is in the margin of error of our February 2022, July 2022, and January 2023 polls showing 79 percent, 78 percent, and 80 percent overall support, respectively. Leading subgroups for this idea in October 2023 were African-Americans (92.7 percent overall), Plurals aged 18 to 24 (92.4 percent overall), Millennials aged 35 to 44 (85.9 percent overall), and Millennials aged 25 to 34 (85.6 percent). In January 2023, the top four subgroup for this idea were Hispanics (90 percent overall), Millennials aged 35 to 44 (89 percent overall), African Americans (87 percent overall), and Millennials aged 25 to 34 (86 percent).


Partisan support of free college tuition among the US population remains consistent and strong with 90.2 percent of Democrats, 66.6 percent of Republicans, and 77.1 percent of Independents strongly supporting or somewhat supporting the idea in October.

This survey solidifies a recent trend of upward momentum for the concept among men which was statistically equal with support from women (77% vs 78%). For the third poll in a row, there was no statistical gender gap between male and female respondents. When the same question was asked in January 2023, overall female support was 79 percent and overall male support was 80 percent. 

The poll also asked the following question to gauge support of a Federal free college tuition program: “Do you favor or oppose the federal government providing free tuition at public universities or colleges for anyone who is academically qualified?” Overall support was 76.6 percent with an identical 41 percent of respondents indicating strong support on both the state and federal questions. While over support for a federal program versus a state-run program is nearly even among the whole population there are significant differences within various demographics. Women, citizens under the age of 45 and ethnic minorities all favor a federal program at much higher levels than men, people over the age of 45 and whites. 



The polls did, however, find a softening in the number of people who strongly support free college tuition, either at the state or federal level. In our January 2023 polls, strong support of state free college tuition programs was 48 percent. This compares to 41 percent in our most recent poll. According to Jack MacKenzie, CFCT’s survey research consultant and the CEO of CollegeApp, “we believe this is a compounding effect of the various narratives around the cost of education vs the ROI as well as the policy debate of reducing or eliminating existing student debt."

CFCT’s poll included a series of questions to ascertain agreement with the following statements pertaining to free college concepts – in green below – and value of college statements – in gold below. 


Overall, free college concepts did best. The top two statements -- “free college programs should include any adult who wants to learn new skills or get retraining,” and “community colleges in my state should be free to individuals looking to learn a new skill or improve their skills” – both received 83 percent agreement in the survey as evidenced by a response of 8 through 10 on a 10-point scale. The response with the least support – “college is worth the money it costs to get a degree” – garnered 58 percent agreement. “There is greater support for free non-degree education options (improving skills, retraining) than for free college programs focused on earning a degree,” said MacKenzie.  



Finally, survey respondents were presented four statements to choose from pertaining to who should be allowed to benefit from free college tuition.



Unsurprisingly, the results show that Americans strongly believe in the concept of free community college, for high school graduates and adult learners.

The CollegeAPP online survey of 2,185 people aged 18+ in the United States was conducted October 23-30, 2023. The survey sample was balanced and weighted to the entire US adult population on age, gender, ethnicity, region and education attainment.  The margin of error at 95% confidence level is +/- 2%.   

We can't do this alone!

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.