Most Americans support free tuition for workers replaced by robots, study says

Amid pressure from 2020 Democrat presidential contenders to make higher education free for everyone, a study published Wednesday shows that a significant majority of Americans support the proposition of tuition-free community college for workers replaced by computers or robots. 

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, led by George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, polled 2,000 white, Asian American, Latino, and African American workers in 2018 for the study, as The GW Hatchet reported.

For each racial demographic group, far more people supported making community college tuition-free than those who did not, according to the study.

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Overall, 70 percent of white Americans, 75 percent of Latinos, 78 percent of Asian Americans, and 85 percent of African Americans reported that they favor tuition-free community college.

“I’m skeptical of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ survey,” Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, told Campus Reform. “The survey was mainly about workers and the future of work and it primed respondents with many questions about potential job loss. This accentuated the insecurity of respondents before the survey turned to questions about re-training. In that context, the participants were asked if they: ‘favored, opposed, or neither favored nor opposed particular policies in the event a robot or a computer replaces a human in her or his job.’”

“The claim that a majority of Americans support tuition-free [community] college is based on the answer to this carefully stage-managed question,” Wood continued. “In effect, people said ‘If my job is taken by a robot, would I welcome the government paying for a community college program to retrain me?’ Many said yes, but that’s a long way from a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren summons for ‘free college for all.’”

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“It is merely a trick question aimed at making it appear that Americans support a vast new government entitlement that most probably do not support.”

Campus Reform also spoke with Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), about the study.

“‘Free’ college is not free – someone has to pay for it, and taxpayer money must be tied to real public benefit. Everyone going to college needs to have some serious skin in the game if we wish to maintain academic excellence and outcomes that prepare graduates for productive careers and informed citizenship,” Poliakoff said. “‘Free’ college is likely to leave the public with exorbitant bills and very limited return on their investment.”

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