Giving Compass' Take:

· Writing for the Cato Institute, Russell Rhine examines the faults in free college tuition, focusing on the massive influx of applications for a limited number of spots.

· What other points does Rhine touch on regarding free college tuition? What does he suggest for the higher education financing system?

· Here's more on the cost of free college tuition.


Three of the top Democratic presidential candidates, Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders support four years of free-meaning taxpayer funded-higher education. But by ignoring incentive-driven behavioral changes, free college for all will hurt many young adults, including minorities and low-income Americans.

What would happen if public colleges were suddenly free?

Demand to attend these schools would likely skyrocket well beyond the current level. Research has repeatedly identified the inverse relationship between tuition and enrollment changes-falling prices increase enrollments. Many colleges have successfully attracted students by lowering tuition. Public Research I schools are the most price sensitive because they compete with other flagship schools as well as private colleges and universities.

Free college would cause high school graduates who didn’t plan to attend college because of the high cost to apply for admission. Other new graduates who would have attended a private college, but now can’t resist saving tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, would also apply. Similarly, many students enrolled in costly private colleges would want to transfer to a free public school. And adults in their late 20’s or older who wanted more education but were unable or unwilling to pay would apply.

The result would be a tidal wave of applications flooding public colleges, forcing admission departments to ration the limited openings. College admission is largely based on academic performance, and the expanded candidate pool increases applicants of all achievement levels, including high-performing students. Those admitted would have higher standardized test scores and GPAs. In other words, public colleges and universities would become more competitive, at least in the program’s early years.

Read the full article about free college tuition by Russell Rhine at the Cato Institute.