What We Know About The Free College Movement
By Emily Lin
This was originally posted on Forbes.
Recently, Brookings Institute hosted a discussion on “The Future of Free College” with panelists Dr. Martha Kanter, Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, Dr. Douglas Harris, and Dr. Beth Akers on the national landscape of the research and policy of the free college movement and its future.
The nature of work is changing. AI is disrupting industries making many of the jobs of today obsolete in the future. By 2020, 65% of jobs will require education beyond high school. As of 2017, only 46% of Americans between the age of 25-29 completed an associates degree, technical certificate, or further levels of higher education. With student loan debt exceeding $1.5 trillion, making college affordable is urgent.
During the panel discussion, Dr. Martha Kanter, Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign and former Deputy Undersecretary of Education, highlighted early outcomes from Promise programs across the nation that exemplify their effectiveness in creating a college-going culture and supporting student success.
What is the College Promise movement? College Promise programs help to remove the financial barriers to education by covering at a minimum the cost of tuition and fees, making a college degree more affordable and accessible for hardworking students. Whether a Promise is scaled for a single institution, a local community, or even an entire state, these programs allow students from all walks of life to achieve their educational goal without unmanageable debt.
However, tuition is only 20% of the total cost of attending college. Students often have to pay for expenses such as textbooks, rent, food, childcare, and transportation that make a college education out-of-reach. According to a recent survey conducted by HSBC, students are spending more time working than studying due to to the overwhelming cost of education. That’s why many College Promise programs offer services and support beyond free tuition and fees to help students complete a degree or certificate.
Here are some early findings from College Promise programs across the nation:
Reducing Student Loans
Gov. Haslam launched the Tennessee Promise in 2014 as part of the Drive to 55 initiative that challenges the state to equip 55% of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. In its first year, tnAchieves reported a 23% decrease in the number of students using student loans and only 7% of Tennessee Promise students used a student loan at Nashville State Community College.
Creating a College-Going Culture
Wabash County, Indiana, Providence, Rhode Island, and Oakland, Californiaare just a few examples of College Promise programs that aim to create a cradle-to-career path for their residents. These programs incorporated Children’s Savings Accounts (CSA) into their program design to close the equity gap on college savings and encourage families and students to think about college at an early age. For many low-income families, saving for college seems impossible. But these Promise programs incentivize savings by initializing the first deposit and individualizing realistic savings amount to make higher education within reach.
Transferring to a Four-Year University
As one of the oldest Promise programs in the country, Long Beach Promisedesigned its program to aid Long Beach Community College (LBCC) students in completing their degree and transferring credits to a four-year university. It partners with Long Beach State University, which allows LBCC graduates to seamlessly transfer to the four-year university and complete a bachelor’s degree on time.
In its 10th year, the Promise reported a 55% increase in enrollment from LBCC graduates to Long Beach State University.
Supporting Students Beyond Academics
Many College Promise programs have cross-sector partnerships that foster student success. Among the many, Dallas County Promise has an impressive list of partners including the Dallas school districts, four-year universities, nonprofits, and businesses such as J.P. Morgan. All the partners collaborate to create a robust Promise program that supports students in a wide range of areas. Dallas County Promise offers food pantries, transportation assistance, mentoring services, and others to ensure that students are well-supported as they complete their degree.
In its first year, the Dallas County Community College District saw an increase of 40% in enrollment.
College Promise Campaign Establishing a Research Network
Research and data are essential to building quality Promise programs that create a college-going culture and support student success. That’s why the College Promise Campaign partnered with the Strada Education Network to establish the College Promise Research Network (CPRN), made up of dedicated scholars and researchers committed to advancing Promise programs through high-quality data and research. Just three years ago, there were about fifty programs, but today, there are over 200 programs across 44 states including 23 statewide programs. College Promise programs are proliferating across the country from Boston to San Diego and Seattle to Jacksonville. In June, the College Promise Campaign published a Playbookon guiding local elected officials on building a Promise program that tailors to their community’s needs. Community leaders have the flexibility to design Promise programs that fit the needs of their community.
College, Career, Community, and Country
More than ever, education beyond high school is essential to prosperity of the community and livelihood of students.
Join the movement now at www.collegepromise.org/join.