How will tuition-free public colleges in the US affect international students?

US Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both made headlines over their plans to wipe out the US$1.6 trillion student debt owed by some 45 million Americans, in addition to making public colleges and universities tuition-free.   Warren’s plan includes eliminating up to US$50,000 in student loan debt for every person with a household income of less than US$100,000, and cancelling a smaller amount for borrowers with a household income between US$100,000 and US$250,000. Meanwhile, Sanders aims to eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools and for apprenticeship programmes. While both presidential hopefuls have gotten tongues wagging over their plans, how will it affect the estimated 1.09 million international students in the US? Neither Warren’s nor Sanders’ campaign page suggest that free college will be extended to international students. Currently, international students can enjoy tuition-free education at some private institutions, but admission to these schools can be extremely competitive. They may only admit students with limited financial resources, making admissions an issue for students who are “too rich to be poor” enough to qualify, but who may still struggle to get by, nonetheless. In exchange for free tuition, students work on campus for a certain number of hours per week.

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