Free community college efforts see rapid growth in California

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Times reports on the proliferation of community college free tuition programs in California, which over the course of 2016, has grown to about 30 with 26 initiatives launched this year alone. 
  • Financing for the programs has been subsidized by institutional and state support, along with private support from corporate gifts, federal grants and charities. 
  • Critics of the program say that the free tuition programs are an unnecessary burden on taxpayer funds, but supporters suggest that they provide a necessary alternative to increasing tuition at University of California system schools, which now exceeds $13,000 annually. 

Dive Insight:

There is positive outlook for systems and states which incorporate free community college tuition programming, as the Tennessee Promise program continues to break records for applications and retention. But data on graduation rates remain to be seen in the state, and there would likely be similar waits for the productivity of similar efforts in other states. 

While free college is an initiative that can command bipartisan support and the best intentions of higher education and corporate communities, long-term stability is an issue for institutions and for students. Scholarship programs like Louisiana's TOPS program show that a drop in tax revenues can limit even the best of intentions for the state's higher education objectives. 

Filed Under: Higher Ed
Top image credit: Wikimedia