Some are heartened to see functioning-for-free college popping up in places like New York and elsewhere. Mark Huelsman senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank and the author of an influential white paper on free college, said he hopes they’ll serve as “laboratories” for policymakers to understand both the benefits and the limitations of different free college program designs.
Still, he says, we have a long way to go before making college truly affordable for low-income and working-class students. That will require covering all of the costs of attending college, such as living or transportation expenses. “If we think that this should be the end of goal of free college, I think we’ll miss the big picture,” he said. [...]
Still, it’s possible the Excelsior Scholarship’s marketing may have urged these students to better understand their financial aid options. “One of the advantages of a tuition free model is that you re-package or promote existing financial aid in a way that can be more powerful for students,” Huelsman said.