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.
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.
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.
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.
When asked, American voters, prefer
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.
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.
An econometric analysis of President Biden’s free college plan by Rob Shapiro found that it would:
More information can be found at:
You can also see CFCT's Making Public Colleges Tuition Free: A Briefing Book for State Leaders for detailed information about each state program.
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.