Is Free College a Real Possibility? 🎓🏛
You have probably heard the words “Free College” recently. Although it sounds exciting and it can get a lot of people cheering and clapping in political rallies, it is important to understand what this really means!
Free College Will Not Apply To Private Colleges & Universities
It is important to understand that when candidates propose this, they are not talking about making Harvard, Duke, or any private college free.
People who propose the idea of free college are usually talking about public colleges. In other words, public state universities & community colleges.
As we mentioned when we talked about the difference between private and public institutions, public universities receive funds from the state.
It is also important to keep in mind that these public colleges are also receive funding from tuition revenue.
Therefore, a public state school will generate tuition revenue when students pay for tuition and fees.
If free college was to occur, then , what would happen if students no longer had to pay for tuition and fees?
If colleges no longer received this tuition revenue, then, where they get it from?
One option would be to have the state legislature increase taxes. Another option would be to have colleges tap into both their institutional operating reserves and large endowments to offer grant aid to their students.
As you can see, the Free-College proposal can be very conflicting and expensive.
Free College is already available in some states
Effects of Free College
New York is one of the few states in the country that offer a free college program. What would happen if a state like Florida began offering free tuition?
Well, let’s take the University of Central Florida as an example, a public state school with an acceptance rate of 43%–not as competitive as an Ivy League but still pretty selective.
If 30% of the 180,000 students that graduate high school in Florida every year decided to apply to UCF, 54,000 students would apply per year!
Its total undergraduate enrollment is already at 59,000! What would happen to the acceptance rate?
Well, if free college happened it would be safe to assume UCF would become as competitive as an Ivy League! Not to mention that other public schools in the state such as UF, FSU and USF would also become more competitive!
If free college happened it would be safe to assume UCF would become as competitive as an Ivy League.
Free college and Community Colleges
What would happen to community colleges?
Well, if you look at data from NY community colleges, since 2015, community colleges have seen a 10% drop in enrollment–losing more than 23,000 students.
Community college is an incredible way to save money on your first two years of higher education while getting your general education requirements out of the way.
In Texas, a lot of students fulfill their dream of going to the University of Texas by starting their journey at Austin Community College or another accredited community college.
These students use these 2-year colleges as a stepping-stone to then transfer to the University of Texas. Not only do they fulfill their academic goals, but they also save tens of thousands of dollars in their first two years.
Now, remember, when you hear someone talk about free colleges they are usually talking about public state institutions.
Private schools do not receive funds from the state so it would be very hard for these types of colleges to offer free tuition.