What? There’s no such thing as free money?

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants free tuition at four-year public colleges. Here’s why it won’t work.

Imagine graduating from college without a dime in debt. No monthly loan payments to Navient, AES or Great Lakes. No calculation of whether to take that dream job paying peanuts or settle on one offering enough money to quickly lift you out of the hole.

That’s the kind of future Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to create with his proposal for free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. But is it feasible?

On Tuesday, Sanders introduced legislation that would eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and expand work-study programs to help students at private universities. The bill also calls for a reduction in interest rates on federal student loans to stop the government from profiting off of lending to young people.

“We once led the world in the percentage of our people with a college degree, now we are in 12th place.” Sanders said. “Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people. They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth. We should be doing the same.”

Sanders estimates that his plan would cost $70 billion per year — about $10 billion more than president Obama’s proposal for free community college. States under Sanders’s plan would have to put up $1 for every $2 the federal government ponies up, shifting more of the cost of public higher education to Washington. The federal share of the expense would be offset by imposing a tax on transactions by hedge funds, investment houses and other Wall Street firms.

To qualify for federal funding, states would need to maintain spending on their higher education systems, academic instruction and need-based financial aid. Sanders would also have colleges reduce their reliance on low-paid adjunct faculty, hire new faculty and provide professional development for professors. No funding under his plan could be use to pay for administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid or the construction of stadiums or student centers.