- Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty is advocating for an additional year in the city's K-12 public school system to help ease the transition from high school to college, an acknowledgment of the fact that half of the city's high school graduates don’t complete college within six years of graduation, the Boston Globe reports.
- In pushing the Year 13 initiative, Flaherty points out that despite the city's increasing graduation rate, some graduates don’t seem prepared to take on the rigors of college — but the voluntary additional year of school would be available to all students who have earned their high school diplomas.
- Flaherty has been touting the idea for about three years, and it has once again gained traction after the Globe’s Valedictorians Project found that about 25% of Boston’s top students between 2005 and 2007 didn't go on to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating.
Adding an optional 13th year of school for Boston students isn't entirely unique in its approach. While the Globe doesn't mention any college credit or vocational education opportunities during that proposed additional year, it is similar to how a number of states and other cities are offering free community college programs to address a variety of issues.
In Washington state, free tuition is being touted to help develop the regional economy. Similarly, a Kalamazoo, Michigan, free tuition program began as a privately funded effort in 2005 with similar aims.
In Tennessee, the state's free community college program, dubbed the Tennessee Promise, thus far has seen success with a 60% increase in students earning degrees or certificates. First-time freshmen enrollment also climbed 24% in 2015.
Some states are taking free college tuition programs a step further by offering them to adult students, as well. This approach, however, requires appropriate support to help older students address situations unique to those over 25, including the need for childcare and the balance of maintaining full-time jobs.
The offer of free post-high school education may also provide an easier pathway for high school graduates not planning to attend college to receive more specialized career training, better preparing them for future blue-collar jobs as those traditionally held in fields like manufacturing, transport, retail and food service are disrupted by automation and artificial intelligence. Florida, however, is considering a plan that would infuse that training in a traditional high school timeframe, allowing students taking a career and technical education pathway to graduate with 18 credits rather than 24, putting them on the path to employment sooner.
While many careers don’t require four full years of post-high school education, most require some sort of next-level training. The states that provide free community college are making it easier for the next generation to enter the workforce with necessary training and skills. And for those who wish to pursue a four-year degree, these programs can make that goal much more affordable.