"Income is actually a somewhat imperfect way to judge whether or not a family is financially secure," said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at the left-leaning think tank Demos. "The typical black family making $100,000 has a lot less wealth than the typical white family making $100,000."
While Huelsman is a proponent of free college for all, he points out that practically, there may be less distance between Buttigieg and Sanders or Warren's free-college plans than many of their supporters may realize.
"We are at the point in the debate where people are trying hard to highlight the differences in what are some similar plans," he says.
For example, Buttigieg's team estimates that his plan would offer free public four-year college to 80% of students, and assistance to an additional 10%.
"You're arguing about whether to cover most families or all families, not whether free college is a worthy concept," Huelsman said.