The Cost Of Making All Public Higher Education

1822 WordsApr 4, 20178 Pages
Free Public Higher Education To determine the cost of making all public higher education free in America, we first need to look at how much we are currently spending. In 2008–9, there were 6.4 million full-time-equivalent undergraduate students enrolled in public universities and 4.3 million enrolled in community colleges.1 The following year, the average cost of tuition, room, and board for undergraduates at public four-year institutions was $14,870; at two-year public colleges, it was $7,629.2 If we multiply the number of students in each segment of public higher education by the average total cost, we discover that the cost of making all public universities free would have been $95 billion in 2009–10, with an annual cost of $33…show more content…
Rather than directly funding public higher education institutions, state and federal governments have often relied on tax deductions and credits to support individual students. The tax code has been used to fund higher education because it is easier for Congress to pass a tax break than it is to get funding for a particular program, but what this system has achieved is a tremendous subsidy for upper-middle-class and wealthy families, while lower-income students are forced to take out huge loans to pay for their education. According to a recent study: “From 1999 to 2009, the govern­ment spent $70 billion on tax breaks aimed at subsidizing higher educa­tion for families . . . about 13 percent, or $9.4 billion, of that total went to families making more than $100,000 a year. At the same time, only 11 per­cent went to the neediest families, those making less than $25,000. Fami­lies in the middle—those making between $25,000 and $99,999—received the lion’s share of the aid, taking in slightly more than three-quarters of the benefits.”5 Later the report indicates that more of the funding now goes to the wealthiest Americans: “Nearly 83 percent of the higher education tax benefits distributed from 1999 to 2001 went to families earning less than $75,000 per year. No benefits went to those earning more than
Open Document