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The Promise Of Free Public Higher Education


In the last four parts of this series, I have discussed the problems of our current student loan system, the potential for an income-based repayment system, and the difficulties of a graduate tax. This leaves us with another proposal: universal free undergraduate public higher education. [...]

A full discussion of higher education cannot be complete without discussing pre-K, elementary, and secondary education policies that dictate how prepared students are for college going in, as well as labor market policies that set the rules of the game for students once they leave college with or without a diploma. Yet understanding how we pay for college is an important part of the debate. Analyzing the problems we have in the system and the potential solutions is crucial for thinking about education reform in the long-term. [...]

Rather than be pushed aside as crazy, these ideas about how to better fund college are worth discussing as our education system becomes increasingly expensive and arcane. We are very far from a graduate tax, let alone free public higher education for all. But, as David Callahan of Demos optimistically notes, “A new education norm can be glimpsed on the horizon: P-16, free for all Americans.”  As some states and plenty of other countries have realized, moving toward a system of free public higher education might just be the best option we have for improving the convoluted and destabilizing way we finance college now.