Rhode Island is latest state to wade into free college discussion
- Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently became the latest top state lawmaker to advance the idea of free college access for students who choose to remain in-state for higher education.
- Early estimates of the plan suggest a $30 million investment which lawmakers have not yet vetted or cast votes for, but would likely model after plans established in California, Tennessee and Oregon and under consideration in other states like New York.
- The Rhode Island plan would cover two years at its public community college, or the final two years of education at the University of Rhode Island or Rhode Island College.
In a political climate where Democrats are either facing or may soon face a changing of the guard in elected leadership, free education is a smart and secure platform to engage voters and cause turmoil for conservatives who oppose additional spending. But even if it gains passage or turns out to be successful as it has in states like Tennessee, the larger question is what price will have to be paid outside of financial benefit for families?
How will states deal with an influx of students who elect to stay home for school, and how can institutions best prepare for what could be dramatic growth among the student population? Could programs or subsidies be cut to fund free education? Most importantly, how does a program which may encourage more community college enrollment and transfers impact graduation rate at all schools, when federal data does not count students who do not matriculate and graduate from one institution?
These are all questions lawmakers, and higher education officials must parse out, likely with input from federal liaisons, to make these plans a reality.
- Associated Press Rhode Island governor looks to pioneer free tuition for all
- Education Dive New York Governor proposes free tuition for state public colleges
- Education Dive Free community college efforts see rapid growth in California