Despite high public support, free college not likely a reality
- A Bankrate survey found high public support for the idea of free public higher education, a plan advanced during the Democratic presidential primaries by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
- Millennials overwhelmingly support the idea of free college, while citizens ages 50-and-older are less likely to approve of the idea — a trend which could suggest potential for clashes over costs divided along age and class-based demographics.
- Rising college costs and opposition from state legislatures to underwrite free public tuition will render any federal proposal practically moot.
College costs have been at the center of several high profile state initiatives involving public institutions. In Georgia and Vermont, mergers have become an accepted practice of cost saving in higher education. In North Carolina, reducing tuition to $500 per semester is now a law aimed at increasing enrollment and marketing for smaller, financially challenged institutions.
These initiatives, in tandem with the federal government's push to promote community college as a first and most affordable option, may change the way four-year institutions recruit, develop programs and look to earn industrial partnerships.
Institutions can make the case for stabilized appropriations by demonstrating aggressive efforts to save money, boost recruitment and to spur research and innovation. But waiting for government subsidies to increase for higher education, even with the return of strong economy, isn't a winning, long-term proposition.