The idea of free public college tuition is supported by a majority of voters in both parties. According to a new national survey conducted for the Campaign for Free College Tuition by Penn Schoen and Berland, not only do 89% of Hillary Clinton voters support the concept, but so do 54% of those who voted for Donald Trump in the last election. In states that were colored red on the 2016 electoral college map, state-level programs that make college tuition free enjoyed 69% support; blue state support was 78%.
The results demonstrate that there is a broad bipartisan consensus in favor of state governments providing free public college tuition for those who are academically qualified. In fact, when survey respondents were told about eligibility requirements that included things like high school GPA or the college student taking classes full time, as Governor Cuomo proposed last week, support for the concept rose from 71% among independent voters to 77%. Adding such requirements boosts Republican voters’ support from 56% to almost two thirds (62%). Even support from Democrats, who were already wildly supportive of the idea, increased from 89% to an almost unanimous 92%.
These findings should not come as a surprise to those who have watched Promise programs, which make college tuition free based on where you live and go to school, spread from an initial experiment ten years ago in Kalamazoo, MI to over 80 communities across the country without any hint of partisanship or conflict. The first governor to propose making his state’s community and technical colleges tuition free was Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican. He sold his idea to a conservative state legislature and has reaped the benefits of increased popularity among all voters in his state as enrollments soared. The first state to follow Governor’s Haslam’s lead was deep blue Oregon, thanks to the leadership of Democratic State Senator Mark Hass.
It is time for political leaders in states across the country to recognize how important increasing economic opportunity is to our nation’s prosperity. Promise programs across the country are delivering solid results in increasing college enrollment and attendance, not to mention improving high school academic performance. The beauty of this bipartisan idea is that it actually works to improve the job skills of a state’s workforce making the state and its workers more competitive in a global economy. If concern about jobs was part of the success of Donald Trump’s candidacy, free public college tuition at the state level—especially for those academically qualified and personally determined to get a degree—is a response that all Democrats, Republicans, and Independents should be prepared to back.
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.