O’Malley’s pledge for ‘affordable’ college doesn’t withstand scrutiny

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has made his bid for college student support in his campaign for president – and as so often is the case with claims by politicians of all ideological persuasions, it collapses under scrutiny.

O’Malley, a Democrat, laid out his plan during a visit to New Hampshire. His idea of “making college more affordable” is, in his own words, to enable college and university students to graduate without any tuition debt.

His plan is to convince public institutions of higher learning to lower tuition to 10 percent of states’ median incomes.

Let us assume O’Malley can make that happen. In his own state, at the University of Maryland, in-state tuition now is $9,996. Adoption of O’Malley’s plan would reduce it to $7,353, or a total of $29,412 for those who graduate in four years (about one-third of UM students do not).

That is still a very sizable bill.

But tuition is only part of the cost of going to college. Again for UM, add up four years of room and board, books and supplies and incidental expenses, as calculated by the university itself. The tab amounts to $58,364 for four years. Including the reduced tuition, the total cost is $87,775.

O’Malley’s pledge may sound good in a political science course titled “Campaign Promises 101.” In the real world, not so much.