Since Bernie Sanders’ promise to go tuition free for state universities, many politicians have come on board with the idea – including Hillary Clinton. We took a look into what tuition free really means and if it is, in fact, free.



Hillary Clinton has campaigned on a tuition free program for students. But I wanted to ask: does tuition free mean fee free?

Simply put: no. Tuition free is mostly a talking point, with not as much real action as you expect.

While it does make a difference, universities will just jack up the fees and lower the tuition. 

Let’s look at a real case:

  • The University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • We got a hold of a real invoice, and the results were staggering.
  • In the fall of 2010, the tuition was $857.00, but the fees were a whopping $3959.00!

Interestingly enough, you have to dive pretty deep into the websites of these individual universities in order to actually see the fee breakdown. Typically, the show the tuition and fees as a combined section, in order to hide these fees.

This shows a simple trick that universities can do to keep the money rolling in. Cut tuition and raise the fees. The other way is to raise the costs of room and board or meal plans, which can easily surpass the cost of tuition.

However some universities are pretty good about this, like the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA):

  • The tuition for this school is $11,220.00, with the total cost including fees is $15,292.06.
  • So for California students this proposal from Hillary Clinton is actually awesome, as it reduces their burden by 73%!

But California is a special case, as in November 2010, the CFA, or the California Faculty Association issued an executive order to rename these unnamed fees to become part of tuition. The statement they released said “It is tragic for all of us to have university leaders who think it’s good enough to follow the path of least resistance. In the change from fees to “tuition,” CSU leaders send a defeatist message that, oh well, there’s no money, too bad, we’ll let elected leaders off the hook and manage by shifting the cost to the students and their families.”

Good on you California! But the rest of us are not so lucky. So for the rest of this election season, remember: Tuition Free, doesn’t mean Fee Free.

Thank you for watching, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to our youtube channel, like us on facebook and twitter.

See our other 3 Minute Politics Video explaining swing states.