Oregon is not giving free college tuition to everyone

11219723_10154052422848327_1361185501072858813_nTL;DR Summary

  • This poster was widely distributed on social media propaganda web sites, often in conjunction with Bernie Sanders statement that he would like 4 years of college to be free for everyone. All other states should follow Oregon’s lead, they said. Based on the comments to this poster, as it circulated, most everyone who saw this believed it applied to everyone in Oregon, at any college.
  • Alas, the poster asserts something that is not true.

  • The program applies to recent high school graduates attending community colleges only.
  • The 90,000 student (full and part-time) Portland Community College program estimates about 3% of students will be eligible for the program. See “Free community college? Not really” (from Pamplin Media, which publishes newspapers in the  State of Oregon).

Like good propaganda, the poster is technically correct – “Oregon offers tuition-free college to working families”. But the poster intentionally leaves the impression that college tuition is free in Oregon for all, even though it applies to only about 3% of community college students. Indeed, this is how the viewers interpreted the poster. Comments on the pages where this poster appears show most think Oregon now has tuition-free college.

As propaganda, this poster “works” because (1) it delivers the message that its target wants to believe is true, and (2) it leveraged and supported the Bernie Sanders campaign proposal of offering free everything to everyone if he is elected.

The message is simple (targeting System 1 thinking) – few viewers understand the details or even look into the details (which requires System 2 thinking). Instead, they enthusiastically “Like” and “Share” an untrue claim on their own social media pages, increasing the circulation of this untrue poster.

‪#‎Oregon‬ ‪#‎FreeTuition‬ ‪#‎Tuition‬ ‪#‎Universities‬ ‪#‎College‬ #CommunityCollege