College Costs: Some Economic Lessons To Minimize Debt


Supporters of free college proposals in the U.S. often look to Europe for case studies, but Chile may actually provide a better comparative study. Tuition-free higher education emerged in Chile as a popular idea in the wake of the massive student protests in 2011 in response to what students argued was unaffordable tuition, high student debt, and large concentration of enrollments in private higher education institutions. Chilean lawmakers ultimately adopted a tuition-free policy in 2016, or “gratuidad” in Spanish. This policy is not as sweeping as it may seem. Policymakers included a number of features to limit its cost and scope. Not all colleges and universities are eligible to participate and others opted not to; the benefit is restricted to students with low and middle incomes; and many students eligible for gratuidad already had access to generous amounts of government-issued grants and scholarships. Notably, more low-income students gained access to government aid under gratuidad because the program does not require students to meet a test-score cutoff, unlike the system of grants and loans it partially replaced. Public universities, which must offer free tuition under gratuidad, argue that government appropriations are not sufficient to make up for the lost tuition revenue and cover the costs of educating students. Empirical evidence suggests that absent a large increase in capacity at Chilean universities, gratuidad is likely to crowd out low-income students.


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>Jason Delisle

Resident Fellow - American Enterprise Institute


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Source : https://www.brookings.edu/research/lessons-from-chiles-transition-to-free-college/

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