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Make College Free? Not So Fast. New Study Shows That Students Are Helped by Making College Better, Not Cheaper

The movement to make college free may continue to grow, but a recent study by economists at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, has found that students benefit far more when schools spend to improve their academics rather than lower their prices.

It seems intuitive: Low-income students won’t have the chance to succeed in college unless rising costs are reined in and more financial aid is available — otherwise they’re priced out by tuition and fees that have outpaced inflation for three decades at public universities. The in-state student at a four-year university who paid $3,200 to get in the door in 1987–88 needs almost $10,000 in 2017.