States Eye Plans To Lower Cost Barriers To College

Career College Central summary:

  • Persistent worries about the cost of higher education are prompting state leaders to propose a new stream of plans to increase college affordability and expand access for their students. Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee drew national attention last month when he proposed providing two years of free community college to recent high school graduates. Also in February, the Mississippi House approved a similar two-year pilot program to cover gaps in community college tuition for students who have exhausted other aid.
  • In Texas, the state's higher education coordinating board—responding to a challenge by Gov. Rick Perry to come up with a low-cost baccalaureate option—in January launched a competency-based bachelor's degree program. Officials estimate that a student could earn a degree in about three years for $15,000 or less.
  • Elsewhere, states are freezing tuition or batting around the idea of not having students pay tuition until after they graduate. Bills to advance that "pay it forward" model have been introduced recently in at least 19 states, though no state has adopted such a system. The closest step came when the Oregon legislature last year approved a measure mandating a study of the idea's feasibility. And last week, the Oregon House followed the state Senate in approving a bill to study making community college free.
  • Despite the activity across states, some of the proposals—whether giving a free ride in community college or the "pay-it-forward approach—are getting a mixed reception. Experts say states have a history of making promises that can be tough to sustain.

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