Tennessee Offered Free College To Fix Its Crumbling Educational System. Then Something Unexpected Happened

As the frontrunners in the Democratic Party Presidential nomination race battle each other to offer more and more free stuff (funded by the 'rich' paying their 'fair share') - most notably "a college education" - one state that did just that has had some rather unexpected results.

Here's what the frontrunners are proposing...

Bernie Sanders
Abolish tuition and fees at four-year public universities, community colleges, and trade schools. Cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt and expand Pell Grants to cover expenses beyond tuition.

Elizabeth Warren
Free tuition and no fees at two- and four-year public colleges, plus forgiveness of as much as $50,000 in student debt for 42 million Americans.

Pete Buttigieg
Free tuition at public schools for 80% of American families. Expand the Pell Grant program and create a $1 billion community college fund to pay for ancillary costs of college, such as child care and transportation.

Joe Biden
Two years of tuition-free community college or high-quality training for recent high school graduates and many adults. The “first-dollar” program means students can use Pell Grants and other aid toward expenses beyond tuition.

All sounds awesome, right? Free college, the promise of increased earnings potential, no debt worries to reduce your post-grad consumption capabilities...

Well, as Bloomberg details,  Republican-controlled Tennessee has tried this "free college" approach with its Tennessee Promise program... and the results are disappointing to say the least.

The state became the first in the U.S. to offer tuition-free community or technical college for every graduating high school senior when the program was signed into law in 2014.

  • The good news (maybe) - The state’s college-going rate of high school graduates rose to 64% in 2015, the first year of implementation, from 58.1% the year before.

  • The bad news (definitely) - Among the first batch of Promise students, the roughly 16,200 who started college in fall 2015, about 18% dropped out after one semester. After three years, about 49% had quit.

So, not exactly surprising really - enrollment rates soared (well, it's free!) and dropout rates remain terribly high (and clearly a waste of 'rich' taxpayers money).

So maybe there's more to this whole "education" thing than simply being free...

There are just inherently complex social and emotional factors that a financial aid program doesn’t address,” says Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission & Student Assistance Corp., which administers the program.

As Bloomberg notes, Promise is what policymakers call a “last-dollar” program, meaning it pays the cost of tuition not covered by federal Pell Grants or state awards and scholarships. The program doesn’t cover expenses associated with being a student such as transportation, child care, school materials, and other costs. Funds can be used at the state’s community and technical colleges, as well as universities with eligible programs.

Which means Democrats should focus on not just free college, but free transportantion to college, free child care, and free school materials... because that will fix everything.

There is one group who are cock-a-hoop at the government paying for students to attend college...

Terri Bryson, a vice president at Motlow State Community College, which has graduated 1,566 Promise students, proclaims that free tuition has “done a great, huge job, but it’s not a magic wand."

Indeed, you get a government-guaranteed income stream and more students!

So, if what you want for America is more students dropping out of colleges, vote for "free college" - otherwise, let's leave the meritocracy well alone because government intervention has not worked (just look at the student loan debacle - sponsored by government-provided loans) and more intervention will create - as Tennessee shows - more unintended consequences.