Ingrid Eisenstadter writes in Barron’s about the problems associated with Bernie Sanders’ proposal to provide “free” college tuition.

Bernie Sanders proposes free tuition at public colleges and universities. Hillary Clinton counters with “debt-free tuition” at public colleges and universities, meaning that she wouldn’t pay to send the kids of rich families to college for free.

But there’s a problem: These plans are guaranteed to escalate already high dropout rates, as more and more students start their higher education with no financial risk to themselves. They will, however, have ever greater academic risk, since 75% of community-college students now start their “higher education” with remedial reading and math classes, and less than 10% graduate on time.

The ratio of debt to inability that causes students to drop out is unknown, but the more the government lures unqualified students into the groves of academe, the more students will be falling out of the trees.

Statistics about accumulation of student debt are complex, but debts are mostly owed by people with manageable loan payments and by graduate students who will make a good living from their advanced degrees.

What we and the candidates don’t know are the actual numbers of hardworking qualified students struggling with debt, versus the number of unqualified students enabled to borrow recklessly. The solution—reallocating billions in federal and state funds and increasing Wall Street taxes—is running way ahead of our understanding of the problem.

LARGELY UNMENTIONED is the fact that in most states, public college tuition is inexpensive. In many, it is dirt cheap. …

… All students have to do to keep their bills down is enroll locally and live at home. So, yes, they will have to put up with their parents for another few years, but this strategy eliminates the cost of room and board and out-of-state fees, which easily can double their costs.

Adult students who don’t have this option, and students who want to live on campus anyway, should proceed with caution. They should take a long and patient look around a very complex system to find the grants and scholarships available to them and not just fling themselves into colleges willing to take their loan money.