For almost fifty years, the federal government has tried to make the American Dream universally accessible by using need-based financial aid to lower the price of attending college. The effectiveness of this approach to expanding opportunity and investing in America’s future has diminished because of declines in real family income, increases in demand for college enrollment, poor regulation of state funding and institutional costs, insufficient funding for and targeting of grant aid, and a political movement that places the needs of private businesses and banks over those of students and families. The results have undermined the national ideal of equal opportunity to succeed and equal rewards for hard work. Talented students are forgoing college because of the costs, students who start college are unable to complete because they cannot afford to continue, and even students who finish degrees may not realize all of the expected returns because of sizable debt burdens. All but the wealthiest families must borrow or pay an amount equal to or exceeding one-quarter of their annual income in order to finance attending a public 4-year college or university.

Fortunately, financial aid is not the only way to make college affordable. We argue that it is time for the federal government to partner with states, public colleges and universities, and localities and businesses to offer two years of college for free.

Click here to read our full report, released in April 2014