“Free College:” Here to Stay?

Source: Jen Mishory, Century Foundation, July 12, 2018

– Statewide free college, also known as “Promise” programs, have expanded rapidly in states across the country, and older free college programs can provide lessons for the design of these programs.

– Advocates of the model point to their structure as a free benefit and to the goal of universality as potential drivers of long-term political sustainability: that increased participation and a clear message will help increase and retain aid funding.

– This report identifies and studies six statewide Promise programs that were in operation through the Great Recession to see how they fared. Their resiliency during that significant downturn demonstrates that the model might in fact benefit from more enduring funding support, and that budgetary protections, social insurance-like design, and the defined benefit structure meant that means-tested free college programs also enjoyed that sustained funding.