To Evaluate Obama’s Free-College Proposal, Look for Lessons Abroad

In proposing to make community college free for millions of Americans, President Obama would buck global trends.

Over the last two decades, almost every country that has taken up tuition policy has moved to charge fees, not to rescind them. Most notably, universities in Britain, which were free until the late 1990s, have nearly tripled their tuition fees in recent years.

"Most of the globe is moving toward, not away, from tuition," says D. Bruce Johnstone, a professor emeritus at the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo and an expert in comparative higher education.