Rather than spending a lot more to make community colleges tuition free, we can make them affordable for all without spending any more government money than we do today.

Making good on his campaign promise, President Biden has proposed to make community colleges tuition-free. In fact, he has raised the stakes by proposing to increase Pell Grant awards at the same time. The problem is that if adopted, these two proposals will require very large amounts of additional government spending, yet are unlikely to achieve the fundamental goal of making community colleges affordable for all students.

The good news is…


Making community colleges affordable for all is a worthy and achievable goal. Making them tuition free is not the way to do it.

The idea that public colleges and universities should be tuition-free has gained many believers in recent years. The impetus has been particularly strong for community colleges where many supporters now back College Promise legislation. With President Biden now proposing his own plan for tuition-free community colleges, the drumbeat only grows louder. But years and years of chronic under-investment strongly suggest that making community colleges tuition free may well be a false promise.

Community colleges were created after…


There are lessons to be learned from Ireland’s quarter century of experience with free tuition.

U.S. educators have known for years we have a lot to learn from other countries about K-12 education. When it comes to higher education, however, there is a tendency to think that we have more to teach than to learn because of the high standing of America’s colleges and universities on the world stage.

But the possible impact of free tuition may be a notable exception. A report co-authored by Jason Delisle and myself and just published by the American Enterprise Institute suggests that we…


There are much more cost effective and equitable ways to make public colleges affordable for all than making them tuition free.

Some years ago, as interest in free-tuition plans grew around the world, Jamil Salmi, a distinguished international higher education expert, made the keen observation that tuition-free plans are neither free nor fair. This confirmed that the costs of providing a quality higher education do not simply disappear because students are not being charged tuition. …


This blog was initially published by Future Ed at https://www.future-ed.org/how-to-ease-student-debt-more-compassion-less-forgiveness/

Student borrowers in America owe $1.7 trillion and counting. These debts adversely affect the life choices of millions of borrowers. It looks like a third or more of the 45 million borrowers with outstanding loans will be unable to repay fully their obligations.

This is a crisis by any reasonable standard. To address it, many organizations and politicians are calling for large chunks of student loans to be forgiven. Senator Elizabeth Warren wants $50,000 to be cancelled, President Biden supports cancelling a more modest $10,000. …


Smarter federal and state policies, not more money, is what American higher education needs to become better.

Many still regard America’s colleges and universities as the best in the world. But how we pay for college in this country is broken in some fundamental ways. College costs too much. Too many students borrow too much. We’ve made too little progress in making college more accessible to traditionally underserved populations. And too many courses aren’t worth what colleges charge for them and/or are not relevant to work place needs. These problems threaten American higher education’s traditional global hegemony.

On top of all that, there’s the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the America’s colleges and universities and the…


Many propose cancelling student debt across-the-board to reduce the excessive reliance on student loans. But there are much better ways to reduce student debt burdens responsibly and effectively.

The well-documented explosion in student borrowing over time has led many to propose to cancel large chunks of existing student debt. This is a bad idea.

Many observers from the left, right and center have pointed out why. For example, Kevin Carey recently in The NY Times does a good job of refuting the logic of widespread student debt cancellation. He points out that most student loan cancellation plans are likely to…


The COVID-19 crisis should not obscure the need for major reforms in how states fund higher education

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief that higher education systems in most states were not prepared to deal with this crisis. Emergency measures are clearly needed now to replace government and tuition revenues lost as a result of the crisis. But government and institutional officials should be careful that any short-term fixes do not make it more difficult in the longer run to achieve much-needed reforms in how states finance higher education.

The widespread belief that states have been dis-investing in public higher education for many decades has fueled calls for making college tuition-free. The COVID pandemic has…


The way we pay for college in this country is in need of serious repair. The good news is we don’t need to break the bank to fix it.

American higher education faces two distinct but related challenges. One is to maintain stability in the face of the COVID pandemic. The other challenge is to recognize that how we pay for college in this country is broken in some fundamental ways and that a series of federal and state policy reforms are needed to fix the existing financing system.

To help in this effort, below are ten observations that might…


The remarkable growth in Irish higher education attainment rates in the past two decades was fueled more by the growth in well-educated foreign-born workers than its higher education policies and funding.

The Obama administration near its outset in 2009 made increasing college attainment rates the “North star” of its higher education policies. The idea was for the US. to re-assert its former hegemony among industrialized countries in the proportion of its workers holding a college degree.

But while US attainment rates have indeed grown in the intervening decade, they have fallen far short of the bold goals set out by…

Hauptman on Higher Ed

Art Hauptman has been a public policy consultant specializing in domestic and international higher ed finance issues for nearly a half century.

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