Giving Compass' Take:
- Delece Smith-Barrow informs readers about what free college means for students who would benefit the most, many of whom are excluded from its benefits.
- Why is it critical to fully understand what free college means for marginalized communities before committing to any policies? What can we do to make college more accessible for students in low-income households?
- Read more about who gets excluded from the benefits of most free college platforms.
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At a time when higher education is in constant flux – some of it is online, some of it is in person with students at a social distance, some of it is in hybrid form – at least one part remains constant: It’s expensive. The average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year, nonprofit, private institution was $36,900 in 2019-2020 for a full-time student. For an in-state student at a public institution, it was $10,400.
Numbers like these could make any student or family inquire about free-college programs. And they sound great in politicians’ speeches, too. But upon closer examination, many of these programs exclude students who could most benefit from them, according to a new report from The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for historically underserved students.
Rules about how old the student is permitted to be or how many credit hours can be taken, for example, create unforeseen challenges, said Tiffany Jones, Education Trust’s senior director of higher education policy. And few programs cover costs like books or transportation.
These programs may be popular, Jones said, “but they don’t always have the support they need politically to invest the dollars necessary to actually make college more affordable for the students who struggle the most to pay. So one of the ways they’re able to reduce the scope and the cost is by limiting who gets it.”
“The last thing you want to do is some sort of bait and switch, where students were under the impression that college was free, they did all the things, they enrolled and then they’re getting billed and they don’t understand why.”
Read the full article about what free college means for all students by Delece Smith-Barrow at The Hechinger Report.