Supporting the idea of free college has become a crucial issue for Democrats running in 2020, but people are beginning to catch on to the reality of it.

Evan Halper writes at the Los Angeles Times:

Lots of 2020 candidates are talking about ‘free college.’ Here’s what they’re not telling you

It has become a cliche of this campaign: A White House hopeful pauses from a speech to invite beleaguered university graduates to shout out the size of the debt they carry — as if competing in an auction — and the numbers bellowed from the crowd spiral upward.

In a nation where student loan debt has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion — more than double the amount just a decade ago — the call-outs are potent political theater. The promise of free college has catapulted from the fringe in 2015, when Sen. Bernie Sanders muscled the idea into presidential politics, to an urgent place in the race this year. Even President Trump is trying to get in front of it.

But the debate over college affordability involves difficult issues of equity, class privilege and how best to target government spending. It has divided Democratic presidential hopefuls and created a gap between the candidates and those on the front lines of college affordability, many of whom have mixed feelings about vows to make a four-year degree free.

The presidential candidates are loudly joining the free college conversation after some 20 states — including California — have launched their own initiatives. Many higher education scholars see a serious shortcoming in every one of those plans: They tend to give the most benefit to Americans who need a boost the least…

Moreover, many of the plans being discussed in the campaign fail to put a priority on the biggest problems that lower-income students grapple with — principally living costs.


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