Free Education?


LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y., Jan. 2 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made tuition-free public higher education a key proposal in his presidential campaign, joined Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday in unveiling a plan for New York public colleges and universities that Sanders called “a model for the rest of the nation.” – [Press Release]

Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year. – [Student Loan Hero]

“It is basically insane to tell the young people of this country, ‘we want you to go out and get the best education you can, we want you to get the jobs of the future—oh, but after you leave school, you’re going to be 30, 50, 100 thousand dollars in debt…and you’re going to have to spend decades paying off that debt…and if you don’t pay off that debt when you’re old they may garnish your Social Security payment to pay off that debt.'” – [Bernie Sanders]


Under this groundbreaking proposal, more than 940,000 middle class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all public universities in New York State. The Excelsior Scholarship program will ensure that students statewide, regardless of their socio-economic status, have the opportunity to receive a quality education and gain the skills they need to succeed in our global economy. – [Cuomo’s Proposal]

Matthew M. Chingos from The Washington Post claims, “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to jump on the progressive bandwagon when he announced a free-college plan yesterday. But buried in the fine print of the $163 million plan are significant benefits to upper-middle-income families — those making up to $125,000 per year — while the plan does nothing for low-income students, for whom existing grant aid already covers tuition. Students from upper-middle-income families would do quite well under the Cuomo plan. At SUNY Albany, students from families making between $75,000 and $110,000 currently receive less than $700 in grant aid, on average. That means they face a bit under $6,000 in tuition payments each year, which the Cuomo plan would cover for them.”  – [Washington Post]

“This is the first we’re learning of the governor’s proposal, so we don’t have any specifics yet. But at this moment, I do have a number of initial questions and concerns that will need to be reviewed closely,” state Sen. Joseph Griffo, a Rome Republican, said in a statement to POLITICO New York. “While it sounds good on paper, we must ask how can New York afford it, and how can we ensure that it would treat everyone fairly, not just target a specific group for eligibility.” – [Politico]

Ryan Cooper’s thinks, “The upshot here is that free college will inexorably tend to benefit the rich disproportionately, both because wealthy people are vastly more likely to go to college, and because a college degree sharply increases their earning potential. (Ironically, as I can personally testify, high prices can actually benefit the poor sometimes, through need-based aid funded by wealthy students’ tuition.)” – [The Week]

As part of his Santa Claus schtick, Sanders calls for college to be tuition-free. It’s a utopian proposal – it’s alluring, but flies in the face of the law of economics. – [Reagan Coalition]

This is not a radical idea. Last year, Germany eliminated tuition because they believed that charging students $1,300 per year was discouraging Germans from going to college. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens. If other countries can take this action, so can the United States of America. – [Bernie Sanders]

What many of the critics either have forgotten or never knew is that this frankly radical notion is not new. In fact, the Vermonter who originally advocated this major federal intrusion was not a socialist named Bernie Sanders, but a Republican named Justin Smith Morrill. Sen. Morrill sponsored the law and President Abraham Lincoln signed it in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War when more Americans died than in all other U.S. conflicts combined. – [

The Morrill Land Grant Act gave each northern state 30,000 acres of federal land for the number of its congressional seats. Some states used the funds from the sale of the land to establish new colleges that would provide an education for the industrial classes. These were the children, not of the aristocracy, but of the farmers and laborers who previously never had the opportunity to study engineering or agriculture or liberal arts.


It seems like trying to eliminate this burden on our students, our economy and our taxpayers is not a radical idea, but rather a brilliant one. But is it also a possible, feasible plan?

As Jordan Weissmann, writer for The Atlantic, claims, our government could make college tuition free without spending a single extra penny. In fact, as a 2012 report from the Department of Education showed, the money spent on financial aid and other programs to make college more affordable outweighed the amount collected in tuition from undergrads that year.

About 900,000 students could be eligible for the program, and 200,000 could take advantage of it. At the current $6,500 tuition, that’s a lot of free college for taxpayers to support. – [The Daily Gazette]

States will continue to play an important role in eliminating cost as a barrier to attaining postsecondary education. Since 2014, both Tennessee and Oregon have enacted promise program that make their respective state’s two-year colleges tuition-free for most high school graduates. Kentucky is expected to implement a similar program for the 2017-2018 school year. Michigan, and more recently California, have enacted laws that incent local promise programs.

(High School) seniors may apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which will provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) is a bi-partisan, inter-generational coalition of individuals and groups who believe today’s economy requires the country to make higher education affordable for everyone if we are going to have a workforce with the skills needed for us to compete in the global marketplace. Established as a 501c3 non-profit in 2014, CFCT has been at the forefront of the free college tuition movement since its inception.

But our work has just begun. We need your help to make free college tuition a reality for you and your family. It can be done. It should be done. And with your help, it will be done.

[The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT)]

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the new Chancellor for California’s Community College system, was interviewed recently by the Campaign for College Opportunity as he prepares to take office. As the instigator and spark that made the Long Beach Promise a reality, we thought his comments on how the idea of free community college tuition could be spread across the entire state would be of interest to our supporters. Remember, Chancellor Oakley’s ideas will be the governing policies for twenty percent of all community colleges students in the country in the coming years. [Posted by Maica Pichler on December 20, 2016 at 9:30 AM]

[Eloy Ortiz Oakley Video]

Sara Goldrick-Rab, one of the most influential and articulate advocates for the cause of free college tuition, was recently asked to debate the idea that public higher education should be universal and free at a conference at the State University of New York. We found her argument to be so well presented that we have created a short video excerpt from the debate, which we think everyone in favor of free college tuition should watch. You can view it here.

[Posted by Morley Winograd on November 22, 2016 at 8:27 AM]

“It is satfer to have a whole people respectably enlightened, than a few in a high state of science and the many in ignorance.”

[From Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Carrington Cabell, 13 January 1823]

“Education is a better safeguard

of liberty

than a standing army.”

– Edward Everett –



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