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What’s the real cost of free college tuition?

Nothing is free, including tuition. But don’t tell that to many of the Democrat hopefuls for president. Democrat primary contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has announced her plan for “free” public college tuition.

Warren unveiled her new higher education plan on Monday. It would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt owed by 42 million Americans, leaving American banks and, their customers, with higher interest rates and banking fees to pay for the forced “bankruptcy.”

Warren’s plan would also make two and four-year public college tuition-free. The Massachusetts senator says her plan would be paid for by increasing taxes.

Mary Clare Amselem, a policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, argues, “free college proposals will simply hasten the deterioration of quality education. It is a common observation that graduate school is the new college, and college is the new high school. This pattern is bad news for American taxpayers and students alike.”

In several commentaries concerning California’s effort for a free community college plan, she noted the most glaring problem is the cost.  While Warren’s plan imposes raises taxes on the “wealthy.” The amount spent nationwide for a 4-year degree is $280 billion and rising–that’s a quarter of a trillion dollars.

Amselem also believes tuition hurts not only students but taxpayers as well.

“The education system once successfully equipped students with the skills necessary to enter the workforce, and particularly gifted or those interested in an academic track continued on to college,” she writes. “However, now that college attendance has become more commonplace—even expected—high schools no longer make workforce preparation their top priority.”

“More than one-third of college freshmen must now take remedial courses,” Amselem noted. “Policymakers should focus their efforts on reforming the K-12 system to prepare students for college and make higher education truly ‘higher.’ Offering additional years of taxpayer-funded schooling will likely only worsen the problem of credential inflation.”

Amselem suggests state and federal lawmakers should address the high cost of college tuition rather than trying to drown the problem with even more taxpayer money. “Overwhelming evidence suggests that the federal government’s takeover of student lending is doing more harm than good,” she wrote. “Unfettered access to federal aid discourages universities from keeping prices low and competitive.”

Instead of offering students free tuition, Amselem believes states and the federal government should consider restoring the private lending market. This would encourage universities to compete for students, provide a high-quality product and keep tuition affordable.

“Simply obtaining a degree—assuming students graduate—does not necessarily translate to increased job preparedness,” she wrote. “It can, however, directly translate to more public debt.”