Does Free College Work? – New York Times


“Yes, we believe all students have the potential to earn a college degree, but it’s all about bringing a world-class workforce to Knoxville and Knox County so we can attract jobs and industry to the area,” said Krissy DeAlejandro. an executive director and co-founder of the program.

More than a decade later, the results are encouraging.

  • According to University of Tennessee research, participants who graduated from high school in 2009, 2010 and 2011 earned an average of 13 percent more than their classmates who did not attend the program seven years after graduation. “It’s significant that they found any increase in earnings,” said Michelle Miller-Adams, senior researcher at the Upjohn Institute and an expert on the tuition-free university movement.

  • In the three years since it began, the program has increased the college enrollment rate among Knox County high school graduates by about 3 percent on average, from the average of the previous two years.

In 2014, Tennessee started a program that offers a statewide free community college or technical school. (The program is government-funded, and private donors fund a nonprofit that offers student success initiatives, including mentoring.) Since then, a significantly higher percentage of high school graduates have enrolled in college within one year, and more have earned degrees. or labor certifications, According to the Lumina Foundationis an independent, private foundation focused on the accessibility of higher education in Indianapolis.

Celeste Carruthers, a professor at the University of Tennessee Haslam School of Business who has extensively researched the state’s free education programs, said Tennessee is getting a few things right. The first was to keep the program simple.

Dr. “The crystal clear message that college is free if you follow these steps and go to these places removes a lot of clutter and confusion,” Carruthers said. He said that need-based and merit-based programs in other states have been less successful at attracting low-income students, some of whom struggle to navigate the complex college financial aid process.

Another aspect of Tennessee’s success was its focus on mentoring for students. Juan Salgado, chancellor of Chicago’s community college system, said one point often overlooked by talk about low graduation rates is that community colleges take all students, regardless of grades and test scores. Many are first-generation college students and some are struggling with homelessness, hunger or other family problems.

This may mean that students need more help meeting deadlines, completing courses, and finding employment.. Studies A program developed by the City University of New York to provide students with mentoring and other support services showed impressive increases in low-income student graduation rates when three community colleges in Ohio repeated it, but the results were less encouraging. in Detroit.

“The evidence shows that with the right support, including financial, our students can be extremely successful despite their circumstances,” said Mr. Salgado.


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