Proposal for Free College Tuition, Fees and Textbooks

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed to eliminate tuition and fees at community colleges nationwide. Several 2016 presidential candidates have proposed their own plans for free or nearly free college tuition at 2-year and 4-year public colleges and universities.

But, all of these plans come with a cost, ranging from $60 billion to $350 billion or more over 10 years. The methods proposed to pay for the cost are a non-starter for Republicans, who currently control both chambers of Congress. Accordingly, these proposals are unlikely to be enacted, even though some of the details are of interest to Republicans, such as preventing federal student aid from causing increases in college costs and requiring colleges to share in the risk of student loan default.

In a new student aid policy analysis paper, Proposal for Free College Tuition & Required Fees and Free Textbooks, Edvisors shows how it is possible to provide a tuition-free college education without tax increases.

Edvisors proposes replacing all current need-based federal student aid and tuition-dependent education tax benefits with free tuition & required fees and free textbooks for all eligible undergraduate students. In lieu of tuition, required fees and textbooks, participating colleges and universities will receive a flat federal subsidy of $6,500 per eligible student per year, prorated for less than full-time enrollment. The student aid policy paper demonstrates that the savings are sufficient to cover the cost of this proposal.

In fact, there are enough savings that Edvisors proposes to add an extra incentive for colleges to enroll and graduate low-income students. When an eligible low-income student graduates with a Bachelor’s degree, the participating colleges that contributed toward the student’s undergraduate degree attainment will share in a $10,000 bonus. The bonus can be used to help more low-income students graduate through academic and financial support or other innovative programs.

Eligible students must demonstrate commitment to their education by meeting minimum enrollment status and minimum academic performance standards and by making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree. They must be enrolled on at least a half-time basis, must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or other eligible non-citizen.

For the U.S. to remain globally competitive, we must make four years of postsecondary education as universal as public K-12. As a nation, we must provide every college-capable student with an opportunity for an affordable, quality college education.

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