Last updated on: 3/6/2024 | Author:

Should Public College Be Tuition-Free?

Free college programs come in different forms but generally refer to the government picking up the tab for tuition costs, while students pay for other expenses such as room and board. 32 states and D.C. have some variation of free college programs. 9 states have statewide programs with “few eligibility limits,” while 23 have “[s]tate sponsored free college tuition programs with income, merit, geographical or programmatic limitations.” 18 states have no free college programs. For more on tuition-free college, explore the ProCon debate.

PRO (yes)


Joe Biden:

“The Budget also invests mandatory funding to expand free community college across the Nation. To lay the groundwork for this program, the Budget includes $500 million in a new discretionary grant program to provide two-years of free community college for students enrolled in high-quality programs that lead to a four-year degree or a good paying job.”

“We can pay for this with the [Trump administration] tax cut that we’re going to reverse as well as eliminating some of these loopholes that make no sense. Let me give you one example. I don’t want to be generic about it. I want to give you an example. For example, you could send everyone in this state [New Hampshire] to a community college for free. And the entire United States for free, if they’re qualified. Cutting in half the cost of… a four-year degree, because in every state you’re able to transfer these community college credits to the state university, cutting in half the cost of education, a four-year education if that’s what you desire. But, here’s the deal, it costs six billion dollars a year. There goes that big-spending Democrat Biden, man, look at him. I can eliminate one of the 1.6 trillion dollars in loopholes. It’s called stepped-up basis… If you just eliminate that one out of one trillion six hundred plus billion dollars, every single solitary kid could go to qualify to go to community college for free, cutting in half the cost of their four-year education, increasing productivity by 2/10 of one percent by most studies, as well as having eleven billion dollars to put toward the deficit.”


Office of Management and Budget and the White House, “Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2024,”, Mar. 2023
C-SPAN, “Joe Biden in Hampton, New Hampshire,”, May 13, 2019

CON (no)


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr:

“I will also take steps to reduce education costs for students. When I was their age, a college education cost about one-seventh of what it is today. A young person could work their way through college and graduate debt-free. If we devoted even a fraction of our military budget to higher education, it could be virtually free to all (as it is in many other countries).”

Editors’ Note: All candidates who have stated that college education should be “affordable” or available at lower cost without explicit mention of tuition-free college have been marked “con” to tuition-free college.


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.,, June 30, 2023


Donald Trump:

Courtney Parella, Trump 2020 campaign spokesperson: “The reality of Biden’s ‘free college’ plan is that it’s anything but free, and he and his campaign should explain to the American people what the total cost of their socialist plan is and how they expect to pay for it.”

Editors’ Note: ProCon has classified this statement as “con,” because of the use of “socialist” to describe a free college plan. Trump is against socialism.


Kery Murakami, “The Nuances of the Free College Debate,”, Sep. 16, 2020