Why Some Cities and States Are Footing the Bill for Community College

By Ronald Brownstein

CHICAGO—A surge of innovation in states and cities is building momentum for what could become a seismic shift in American education.

Just as the country came to expect in the decades around World War II that young people would finish at least 12 years of school, more local governments are now working to ensure that students complete at least 14 years. With that change, political leaders in both parties are increasingly acknowledging that if society routinely expects students to obtain at least two years of schooling past high school, government has a responsibility to provide it for them cost-free.

That impulse animates the statewide tuition-free community-college program pioneered under Republican Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee and replicated under Democratic Governor Kate Brown in Oregon; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Star Scholarship, which funds two years of community college for students who complete high school with a B average; and the legislation Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law providing tuition-free access to two- and four-year public colleges in New York for families earning up to $125,000. The Campaign for Free College Tuition, an organization promoting this movement, expects representatives from up to 18 states to join their conference next month in Denver.

Ben Cannon, executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, speaks for many devising these initiatives when he insists: “As a state, we generally acknowledge and understand that a high-school education is not enough, and [tuition-free community college] represents an attempt to extend that [public-education] entitlement to 14 years.”

Two key factors explain why 14 is becoming the new 12 in education. First, amid anxiety about the economic strains on blue-collar families, the push for expanded post-secondary access reflects a growing recognition of the critical opportunities community colleges give working-class kids.

More children of parents without a four-year college degree attend community …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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