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Economists Find Free Community Colleges Can Backfire

College is expensive, so what’s the best way to help more Americans afford a degree? One team of researchers has a surprising answer. The most cost-effective way to increase the number of Americans who get a four-year degree, they found, is to increase tax-payer spending at all public colleges and eliminate tuition for students from families with incomes under $60,000 a year.

The study, “Policies and Payoffs to Addressing America’s College Graduation Deficit,”  is a conference paper published by the Brookings Institution in September 2019 and conducted by four economists and quantitative researchers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University and the research division of the College Board.