Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton pandered to their liberal sheep with promises of “free college,” which is obviously appealing to a young student in deep student loan debt. But a surprising country just proved that the entire concept is doomed for failure.
Remember in 2016 when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton championed making college free at public universities? Sanders blathered in 2015 that Chile was one of several countries offering free college to its students, and stated on his website, “If other countries can take this action, so can the United States of America.”
Forget it, buddy. Go back to your pudding cup.
The Brookings Institution has released a new comprehensive article examining the results of instituting free college for students in Chile, and the report found that lower-income students (the class of students Sanders and Clinton were appealing to) were crowded out of more selective universities that they would have been admitted to before scholarship aid was increased.
Chilean lawmakers adopted a tuition-free policy in 2016; it was called “gratuidad” in Spanish. Government aid was restricted to students with low and middle incomes; the program did not require students to meet a test-score cutoff.
The average tuition in Chile costs families roughly half of the median family income.
When gratuidad was applied in 2016, it was restricted to students in the lower 50% of the income distribution, but by 2018, students in the lower 60 % of the family income distribution became eligible. All public universities are required to follow gratuidad, so they are forced to waive tuition for students in those categories.
An empirical study by Alonso Bucarey of MIT uses enrollment changes observed after earlier financial aid reforms in Chile to predict that gratuidad will reduce enrollment among low-income students and push those who do enroll into lower quality institutions. A 2017 paper by Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillian Wyness documents these trends in an analysis of tuition policies and college enrollment in England.
Bucarey stated there will be a 20% plunge among low-income students that enroll in universities compared to the situation before gratuidad.
Brookings points out, “A 2016 analysis by Matt Chingos shows that the benefits of free college in the U.S. would skew toward middle and upper-income families. … Low-income student enrollment in U.S. institutions could decline if free college proposals led to the type of crowding out predicted to occur in Chile’s system. Even if the U.S. can avoid the regressive effects of free tuition seen in other countries, the policy may still diminish educational quality.”