US politicians propose free community college tuition

February 7, 2014

Politicians in Tennessee, Oregon and Mississippi have in the last couple of weeks proposed free tuition for the first 2 years of community college for their states’ students—an idea that has some PSE leaders excited, and others advising caution. Senior VP of the American Council on Education Terry W. Hartle said the proposal by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was extremely important, but agrees with several other experts who warn about a range of possible “unintended consequences,” including driving students away from public, 4-year institutions. Others say there are other far more effective ways of using state funds to support student access. For example, Center for Community College Student Engagement Director Kay McClenney says state scholarship funds for lower-income students are often short of money. McClenney suggests that making tuition free for all “runs the risk of subsidizing large numbers of people who don’t need the support.” However, Hartle, McClenney and others do praise the 3 politicians for trying to come up with ways to support students in need. Inside Higher Ed

Postscript: April 21, 2014

Tennessee has approved Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise bill and will create a program to pay for the first 2 years of community or technical college tuition for its high school graduates. The bill met overwhelming approval in both the State Senate and House of Representatives, passing by votes of 30-1 and 87-8, respectively. Proponents of the bill hope it will enable more lower-income students to attend college. The Chronicle of Higher Education