Free college tuition programs have now been in existence long enough for independent research to demonstrate their benefits. Here are a few of the studies we have found that help prove why free college tuition is the best policy program any state can adopt. The research provides answers to some of the more commonly asked questions about free college tuition programs.  

Why is the message of free college tuition so effective in improving college enrollments?

High school juniors who believe they can’t afford higher education are about 20% less likely to attend college within the first three years after high school than peers who don’t think affordability is a barrier.

Study: High schoolers' perceptions of affordability matter (

College affordability views and college enrollment (

An unconditional free tuition offer from a large public university substantially increases application and enrollment rates. A free tuition offer contingent on proof of need has a much smaller effect on application and none on enrollment. The results suggest students place a high value on financial certainty when making schooling decisions.

The Power of Certainty: Experimental Evidence on the Effective Design of Free Tuition Programs | NBER

Study: Designing Free Tuition Programs for Maximum Uptake (


How does free college tuition impact enrollment of women and minorities?

Academic research offers compelling evidence that Promise programs at community colleges increase initial college enrollment and are especially effective for historically marginalized students. These effect sizes are considerably larger than those resulting from other types of grants or scholarships, indicating that free college programs have an impact beyond just reducing the price of college.

Compared to nearby colleges without a Promise program, colleges with a Promise program saw, on average, an enrollment increase of 22%. However, programs with income limits did not increase enrollment numbers. 

Free College Tuition Programs Dramatically Increase Black and Hispanic Enrollment - The Campaign for Free College Tuition (

The Case for Free Public Higher Education - The Campaign for Free College Tuition (


Why does free college tuition program design matter?

When asked, American voters, prefer  

  1. tuition-free college be available regardless of family income, and
  2. tuition-free college to have some minimum academic requirements.

New Research Demonstrates Public Support of Free College Programs is Impacted by Program Design - The Campaign for Free College Tuition (

Our survey results suggest that policy makers seeking to design the most popular free college tuition program possible should make it universally available for academically qualified students and keep the program as simple as possible by not adding additional requirements for students to be eligible to go to college tuition free. College counseling is the most popular  requirement for students getting free college tuition to do,  but public service requirements are the least popular.

More Research Demonstrating Public Support Of Free College Programs Is Impacted By Program Design - The Campaign for Free College Tuition (


What is the economic impact of enacting a free tuition program?

A study in October from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found the median lifetime earnings of those whose highest credential is a bachelor’s degree was $2.8 million, with the top quartile making at least $4.1 million. For those with only a high school diploma, the median was $1.6 million, with the top quartile at $2.2 million or more. 

The College Payoff: More Education Doesn’t Always Mean More Earnings - CEW Georgetown

College enrollment drop sparks recruitment scramble - The Washington Post

An econometric analysis of President Biden’s free college plan by Rob Shapiro found that it would:

New Analysis Finds Biden Free Tuition Plan Would Help Jumpstart Economy - The Campaign for Free College Tuition (


Where can I find more information on free college tuition programs?

More information can be found at:

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research - Promise Programs

Evolution of Promise: The Evidence Behind the Movement - A College Promise Reference Guide

You can also see CFCT's Making Public Colleges Tuition Free: A Briefing Book for State Leaders for detailed information about each state program.

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.