Can public higher education be free?

In a recent op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders writes,

An important pathway to the middle class now runs through higher education, but rising costs are making it harder and harder for ordinary Americans to get the education they want and need. In 1978, it was possible to earn enough money to pay for a year of college tuition just by working a summer job that paid minimum wage. Today, it would take a minimum wage worker an entire year to earn enough to cover the annual in-state tuition at a public university. And that’s why so many bright young people don’t go to college, don’t finish or graduate deeply in debt. With $1.3 trillion in student loans, Americans are carrying more student debt than credit card or auto-loan debt. That’s a tragedy for our young people and for our nation.

Many countries currently offer free tuition for public colleges and universities, such as Germany and Brazil. In Minnesota, there has been a push for free tuition at two-year technical and community colleges, although critics question how it will be paid for, and whether the investment is worthwhile.

Today’s question: Can public higher education be free?