Report: Free Public College Will Be Costly for States

October 3, 2016

Free four-year tuition at public universities would create significant new costs for states, according to a report released Friday by the Campaign for Free College Tuition.

The group backs proposals to make public college free but commissioned the report from the American Institute for Research to help inform discussions by policy makers.

The report finds that the cost of forgoing tuition revenue from two- and four-year public institutions could run into the billions for some states: $4.96 billion in California, $3.89 billion in Texas and $2.53 billion in Michigan.

“With free college tuition programs currently receiving considerable attention, we think it is time for state officials to consider making these type of calculations for their own state," said Morley Winograd, president and CEO of the Campaign for Free College Tuition.

But he said more work remains to be done to estimate the potential new revenues for states as a result of more residents graduating college and attaining higher incomes.

The report's authors also note that they have no idea how many new students may enroll in public colleges and universities as a result of free tuition or how private nonprofit institutions may be affected.

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