Analysis: Sanders College Plan Most Benefits the Wealthy

April 22, 2016

Eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, as Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has proposed, would disproportionately benefit wealthier families, according to a new analysis by the Brookings Institute.

The analysis by Matthew M. Chingos, a Brookings contributor and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, looked at the dollar value of eliminating in-state tuition at two- and four-year public institutions. He found that students from families in the top half of the income distribution would receive $16.8 billion in value from eliminated tuition compared to $13.5 billion for students in the lower half of the income distribution.

The difference is driven in part, Chingos writes, because wealthier families tend to attend more expensive four-year colleges. Chingos notes that his analysis does not consider the “likely impacts” of increased enrollment that would result from making public colleges tuition-free.

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