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Giving Compass' Take:
· Writing for the Urban Institute, Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson explore the idea of "free college" and explain that this concept would have little impact on the student debt crisis because the cost of higher education goes beyond tuition.
· What costs, aside from tuition, have contributed to the student debt crisis? How can the student loan and federal financial aid process be improved?
Making public college tuition “free” is a popular Democratic campaign proposal, but free college might have a smaller impact on student debt than many expect.
Almost one-quarter of students who earned bachelor’s degrees from public colleges and universities in 2015–16 attended for “free”—their full tuition and fee price was covered by grant aid—in their final year. (The share of public four-year college students paying zero tuition and fees is highest for first-year students and lowest for those in their final year.) Yet, two-thirds of these students graduated with debt.
The cost of college goes beyond tuition
Financing college involves more than tuition prices. Students must pay for books and supplies and cover their living expenses while they are in school. It is difficult to work full time and succeed in college, so students need other resources.
Whether they and their families have saved in advance, how much they can earn while they are in school, how long it takes them to complete their programs, their responsibilities to family members, and lifestyle choices all contribute to their need to borrow to supplement their budgets. (You can learn more on the Urban Institute’s college affordability website.)
Advocates might assume that if college is free, few students will rely on loans. But the data on college graduates suggest otherwise. Even among students who pay no tuition and fees, the majority rely on student loans.
Read the full article about free college and student debt by Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson at Urban Institute.