As the tuition-free college education debates continues to be a popular topic of discussion, some states have proposed the concept of providing free tuition for community colleges as a means to provide incentive for young people to strive for a higher education. Some are worried that youth in the United States will continue to fall behind other countries in the global skills race, so this would make emerging workforces look better to employers by boosting educational attainment.
Although this plan would make community college education free, that doesn’t mean that it won’t come at a price. States such as Tennessee and Oregon are trying to decide as to whether the allocation of funds towards this plan is the best way to appropriate taxpayers’ money. A Mississippi bill has already passed through the state House, but then failed in the Senate.
Being a midterm election year, this could be a hot topic of conversation considering that this matter deals with the issues of income inequality and the burden of student debt. Senator Mark Hass of Oregon says, “I think everybody agrees that with a high school education by itself, there is no path to the middle class. There is only one path, and it leads to poverty. And poverty is very expensive.” He believes that taxpayers will be saving money by implementing this plan in that the tuition of community college is less than having an individual in the social safety net. Also, college graduates tend to earn more money in their lifetime, so by increasing the amount of college graduates, the American public could contribute more tax dollars.
Different ideas have come up for funding such an expensive plan. Governor Bill Haslem of Tennessee has mentioned using lottery money to create a community college program for high school graduates. The “Tennessee Promise” plan, if approved by Legislature, would come at a cost close to $34 million annually but has projected that it would increase the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees from 32% now to 55% by 2025.
As of right now, Oregon is examing whether this plan for free community college tuition is feasible at this point. Some variables that this study plans to determine would be how much the program would cost, who would be able to participate in the program and whether the existing buildings can accommodate the extra students.
If the option to attend tuition-free community college been available prior to your enrollment in a four year university, would you still have chosen a bachelor’s degree or would you have participated in this program?