Kevin Carey was quoted in NPR about whether free college is really free:
Kevin Carey, now the director of the higher education policy program at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, made pretty much the same argument in the New Republic in 2012. He compared public universities to apple vendors:
"You, the apple vendor, look at the situation and say, 'Hey, the market price of an apple is still $1. Wouldn't it be great if I could charge $1 for apples, but still get 40 cents from the government for every apple I sell?' ... So you start raising prices by 3, 4, or 5 percent above inflation annually."
In a world with no public subsidy at all for education, the only option left for free tuition would be something like the Starbucks plan — large corporations or wealthy donors footing the bill. And that kind of "free" comes, generally, with a significant catch — like requiring students to work for a certain employer.