Students could have their first two years of public university paid for by the federal government, according to a plan proposed by University of Wisconsin-Madison professors.
Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall, associate professors of educational policy studies at UW-Madison, have been working on a paper detailing a plan that would reallocate the financial aid money spent at for-profit universities and private universities back to the public sector, Goldrick-Rab said.
“Its not right for the University of Phoenix to charge students $25,000 a year and pay for it all with financial aid that came from taxpayers,” she said. “So we take all that money and simply redistribute it in the public system, and it turns out we have more than enough money.”
According to Goldrick-Rab, students considered lower-class would no longer be favored for financial aid over middle-class students under the plan.
“We really were struck by the fact that a lot of people act like the only people who need financial aid are the really, really poor people,” Goldrick-Rab said. “And if you look at the data it’s actually pretty clear that even the middle class is having a hard time.”
The plan would not be limited to in-state students and out-of-state students would be able to attend the first two years of any public university in the country for free as well, Goldrick-Rab said.
After completing the first two years, students would receive an associate degree as a safeguard in the event they would not be able to afford the last two years.
“Two years of post-secondary education, especially when it results in a certificate or associate degree, has considerable value in today’s labor market,” Goldrick-Rab and Kendall wrote in their paper.
Although the final two years would not be automatically funded, Goldrick-Rab said a university could distribute its institutional grants to mostly juniors and seniors since they would have already proven their worth as students.
If the federal government agrees to implement this plan, it could be enacted in public universities within the next five years, Goldrick-Rab said.