The message from our latest survey of voters for policy makers considering making their state’s public colleges tuition free is simple: Make college tuition free for those who are academically capable as universally available as you can and don’t ask students to jump through too many hoops to gain this benefit that voters of all political persuasions support.
The Campaign for Free College Tuition recently completed our seventh online survey in partnership with PSB Research to gauge current public attitudes toward states offering support for free college tuition to all those who are academically qualified. Support for this public policy has been remarkably stable, despite the political turmoil the country has been experiencing at the national level, in our series of surveys conducted since December 2016. Overall support has ranged from 73 to 81% in the seven surveys.
In our most recent survey, conducted in June 2018, the percentage of respondents who indicated strong support was 48% with overall support at 78%. More importantly, “strong support” of free college has been at least 47% in our last four surveys, starting in August 2017. Indeed, in our latest poll, Republican strong support for the concept reached its highest level yet, 33% and is 64% overall.
The June 2018 survey also tested, for the first time, the important issue of how universal to make such free college tuition programs. It found that the highest support (39%) was for state programs “available to all students regardless of family income.” This response was led by men (42%) and Republicans (41%). Programs that would limit eligibility based on family income were less popular. Just, 28% of those surveyed supported programs “available only to students who otherwise couldn't afford college”, while 34% supported programs “available to middle class and lower income families but not wealthier ones.”
Requirements for minimal academic performance in order to be eligible for free tuition remained the most important eligibly requirement of all those tested with college and high school GPA scores garnering 70% support and 61% support, respectively. Only two other qualifications found favor with a majority of those responding -- qualification for “in-state” tuition (51%) and applying for federal aid (50%). Other requirements that mandated certain behaviors by the recipients, such as completing community service hours, attending full time, staying in state upon graduation, and meeting with mentors, failed to gain majority levels of support and generated higher levels of opposition.
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.