Report: Free Tuition Won’t Fix “Dropout Factories”

By Andrew Pillow

Presidential candidates have been floating the idea of free tuition during this election cycle. The idea is catching on, but it’s also being met with criticism. Concerns range from potential cost, to the fact that the poorest students are generally already covered by existing programs.  

But now there is a new criticism: Return on Investment

A new report, courtesy of, outlines the potential dangers of paying tuition for students at schools with a history of manufacturing dropouts. points out that paying for school doesn’t necessarily guarantee you get a college graduate ready to enter the workforce.

“While rising costs continue to drive the conversation around higher education in our country, this report and our previous analysis of four-year private, non-profit colleges raise much more fundamental questions beyond sticker price. With outcomes like these, it is clear that simply addressing the rising cost of college isn’t sufficient to ensure students are being equipped with the degrees and skills they need to succeed."

The study was conducted by analyzing the Department of Education Scorecard

Some of the key findings of the study were:

  1. Low Graduation Rates for First-Time, Full-Time Students
  2. Poor Wage Outcomes for Loan-Holding Students
  3. Not all Public Schools are Created Equal
  4. Pell Students Tend to Be Concentrated at the Schools with the Worst Outcomes
  5. Price has Little Relationship to Outcomes

The report goes into more detail about each of the findings.

Read the rest of the report here.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.