LAS VEGAS, Aug. 20, 2015 – College affordability remains a key challenge to college access, choice and completion, and is becoming a central presidential campaign issue, according to Edvisors, publisher of free web sites that help students and families plan and pay for college. Edvisors has issued a white paper that outlines a new proposal for free 2-year and 4-year college education, with free tuition & required fees and free textbooks, without requiring an increase in government spending on postsecondary education.
“College students were a swing vote in the last two presidential elections,” said Mark Kantrowitz, Senior VP and Publisher of Edvisors.com. “Students and their families are increasingly concerned about college affordability and the burden of student loan debt.”
The Edvisors solution, available for free download at www.edvisors.com/ask/student-aid-policy/free-tuition/, demonstrates that it is possible to provide a free college education by reallocating existing government resources. No new money is necessary.
Flat Federal Subsidy instead of Tuition
Under the proposal, all colleges, public and private, will receive a flat annual $6,500 federal subsidy per full-time equivalent (FTE) eligible enrollment in exchange for agreeing to provide free tuition, required fees and textbooks to all eligible undergraduate students.
“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,” Kantrowitz said. Kantrowitz is a nationally recognized expert on student financial aid, scholarships and student loans.
Funding the Program with No New Taxes
To fund the program, the federal government would eliminate all need-based federal student aid programs, such as the Federal Pell Grants and subsidized federal student loans. The federal government would also eliminate the three tuition-driven education tax benefits: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit and the Tuition and Fees Deduction. This will yield enough money to cover the cost of the program.
This will also simplify the process of paying for college by eliminating the need for the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the need for verification, according to Kantrowitz, who is co-author of the bestselling book, Filing the FAFSA. The elimination of tuition prevents student aid from causing increases in college costs.
Education tax benefits for college savings and student loan interest will continue, as would indirect tax subsidies, such as tax exempt status for 501(c)(3) organizations. Military student aid (e.g., GI Bill, ROTC scholarships) will also remain available. Unsubsidized federal student loans will be simplified and streamlined, with loan limits based on the borrower’s projected ability to repay the debt.
To help low-income students pay for the other costs of going to college, private scholarships would once again be tax-free, even if used for room and board and other non-tuition and non-fee expenses.
Bonus to Help Low-Income Students Graduate
The proposal offers a $10,000 bonus when an eligible low-income student earns a Bachelor’s degree from a participating school. The upside for colleges is that the bonus will be shared by all the participating schools that contributed to the student’s educational degree attainment. Colleges can earn more bonuses by enrolling more low-income students, by helping low-income students to graduate and by producing students who transfer to 4-year institutions and graduate. Successful programs might be sustained by the proposed bonuses.
Under the proposal, 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. According to the proposal, to be eligible, students 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. However, participating colleges may charge tuition and fees to ineligible students, such as international students.
Edvisors publishes free web sites to help students and families plan and pay for college. Every year, millions of students and their families turn to the company’s flagship site, Edvisors.com, for timely, accurate information, advice and tools that help them confidently make the best decisions about paying for college. At ScholarshipPoints.com, students earn points and enter scholarship drawings (the site has awarded more than $750,000 to date). StudentScholarshipSearch.com is a large free online database of scholarships with an easy-to-use scholarship matching tool. Founded in 1998, Edvisors is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. More information can be found at www.edvisors.com.
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