Bernie Sanders and other Democrats are embracing free college. Europe shows it can be done, but there’s a cost.

"“The best German universities look a lot like the University of Colorado. It’s not going to be like the top privates. It’s not even going to be like the top publics,” said Alex Usher, a Canadian education consultant who has studied how countries fund their university systems. “They’re perfectly good schools. They churn out good graduates. They’re not as focused on creating an elite. And in many ways that’s what the top systems in the United States are trying to do.”

In the United States, advocates of free college often play up its potential to reduce inequality of opportunity. But Germany’s schools do not actually reach a greater share of the population — 31 percent of Germans ages 25 to 34 have a college degree, compared with 48 percent in the United States. And a smaller portion of students in Germany are the first in their families to attend college. Thirty-two percent of U.S. graduates between the ages of 20 and 29 did not have a parent with higher education, while in Germany it was 29 percent, according to OECD figures."