Report Finds Biden’s Free Public College Program Would Pay Off Within 10 Years

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Photo of dollar bills wrapped around a graduation tassel

Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s free public college program would pay for itself within 10 years, an analysis by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) has found.

The program, which was part of an education plan proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, would offer tuition-free public college for all families with incomes below $125,000.

Georgetown’s report, titled “The Dollars and Sense of Free College,” classifies Biden’s initiative as a first-dollar tuition-free program, in which students have their tuition and fees covered and are able to use financial aid toward other costs.

According to the authors of the report, Biden’s college plan would cost an estimated $49.6 billion during its first year. However, its benefits would outweigh costs as earnings and tax revenue increase within 10 years. After 11 years, the initiative would cost $73 billion per year and would be completely offset by workers earning more through advanced education and training, which will increase tax revenue to $186.6 billion.

The report says that because the plan allows students to use financial aid to cover non-tuition expenses, it is the “most equitable in terms of race and class coverage than other major plans.”

“[Biden’s] plan guarantees your tuition if you make less than $125,000 and then allows you to keep whatever federal aid you’re eligible for to pay additional costs,” Anthony Carnevale, economist, professor, and director of the CEW, explained to CNBC. “The modeling suggests that approach tends to reach deeper into low-income and minority populations.”

Carnevale states the policy is popular among voters seeking upward mobility. “Free college, for lots of reasons, moves votes. It’s the thing that most American families want and need to either move into the middle class or move their children into it.”