COMING AUGUST 3: The "Free College" Debate
Reducing the Cost of College for Debt-Burdened Americans
It was back in January when President Obama first proposed making two years of community college free for every American. Almost immediately pundits in Washington dismissed the idea as impossible in a Congress so riven by partisanship that it can’t complete simple tasks, let alone enact a sweeping initiative. But while a Republican-controlled Congress likely will not pass an Obama-passed bill, his proposal has touched off a broader discussion on how to reduce the cost of college for debt-burdened Americans. Last month, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill into law offering tuition-free community college to students in the fall of 2016, the state became the second state to do so, following Tennessee. Some individual colleges, such as the Community College of Philadelphia and Harper College, are offering tuition-free models. And now Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) have introduced the America’s College Promise Act, which provides specifics on Obama’s proposal. The authors envision a federal investment of $79.7 billion over the next 10 years to provide free community college tuition to all eligible students. Funds would be awarded to states, upon submission of an accepted application. States would have to commit to “maintenance of effort” equal to or exceeding their average spending on public higher education, including student financial assistance, for the three previous years. States also would have to provide a 25% match. By Paul Bradley. 1,200 words.