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Free College In Chile: What The U.S. Can Learn

So poor was the education she received at her public high school, Pilar Vega Martinez had to take an extra year to study for the Prueba de Selección Universitaria — the Chilean version of the SAT.

The work paid off. Her score on the exam was good enough to get her into the top-rated University of Chile. Vega is now in her third year, studying to be a nurse. And thanks to an important change in government policy, life got easier after that: She didn’t have to pay.

That’s because Chile has made college tuition-free — through a policy called gratuidad — after years of angry public protests about escalating tuition and student loan debt and the gulf in quality between the institutions attended by the wealthiest and the poorest students.

It’s a version of “free college” along the lines of what many in the United States are talking about — including several Democratic candidates for president.