Survey Finds Broad Support for Free College

August 2, 2016

Sixty-two percent of all Americans support free tuition at public colleges and universities, according to a survey released Monday by Bankrate.com. Among millennials surveyed, support was even higher, with 77 percent backing free tuition.

The survey also found a strong partisan divide on the issue. Democrats (81 percent) and independents (67 percent) backed the idea with strong majorities. Meanwhile, 33 percent of Republicans supported free tuition. The debate over college affordability became one of the biggest themes of the Democratic presidential primary, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned on a plan for free tuition at four-year public universities and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton offered a debt-free college plan in response. Clinton eventually moved closer to Sanders's position last month, proposing a plan that would provide free tuition at public universities to families with incomes under $125,000 by 2021. The Bankrate survey shows the broad support for free college proposals in the Democratic electorate.

Respondents were also sharply divided over forgiveness of student loan debt. Thirty-five percent supported forgiving student loan debt after 10 years of repayment, while 40 percent said it should be fully paid off. Clinton's platform calls for forgiving college debt after 20 years, or just 10 years if a borrower "works in the public interest." Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has not outlined a specific position on student debt forgiveness.

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