Archive for January, 2015

Questions about Free Community College

January 8, 2015 Leave a comment


President Obama announced a proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students. Details here. More will be unveiled in the President’s speech in Tennessee tomorrow and at the State of the Union later this month.

I think it’s a good idea and I want to know more.

Here are the questions that came to mind:

  1. What are the lifelong employment and salary outcomes of those with a high school diploma versus those with AA/AS degree versus those with some college? Especially among people ages 20-40
    1. How will the program be administered? By the federal government, through state governments, or through community colleges?
      1. How will it be funded?
        1. How will it affect funding for all other federal financial aid offerings and federal monies directed toward higher ed?
          1. i.e. Increases in Pell Grant monies have come at the expense of federal financial aid dollars for graduate students (Javits fellowship, subsidized federal loans for graduate students, etc)
        2. What is the role of state funding of community colleges and state financial aid dollars for their state residents?
      2. Will this standardize community college offerings, openings, structures, etc across the states?
        1. How will this affect transfer policies to 4-year universities? Acceptance of credits from community college coursework varies from program to program within the same university let alone from college to college
          1. Is this only open to immediate high school graduates? Can those with a GED or who graduated years ago take advantage of 2 free years of community college?
            1. Is the program for 2 years or the amount of time necessary to achieve credits equal to 2 years of full time enrollment in a community college
              1. Do community colleges currently have the capacity to meet this demand? If no, how will the sector expand to meet it
                1. Can HBCUs that are on the verge of closure or merger rebrand as community colleges to take advantage of this proposal?
              2. Is it open to undocumented immigrants? Is it dependent on state legislatures to pass the modified versions of the DREAM act or in-state tuition legislation?
                1. Is it tied to Common Core in K-12? Will students be required to pass/meet a specific score on a HS exit exam or college entrance exam to benefit from the program?
                  1. Remedial coursework – What about students who need remedial coursework before taking college level classes, especially in mathematics?
                  2. Will SAT/ACT be required for admission?
                2. Does this further stratify higher ed – between top tier universities that will still compose 90+% of their graduating class from those who enroll as freshmen?
                  1. What types of colleges will have sufficient space in their 3rd year classes to accept large numbers of admits?
                  2. How will this program respond to/mitigate the benefits that accrue to students who attend 4-yr colleges versus those who transfer in from community colleges?
                  3. How will this remake the undergraduate college experience?
                3. How will this affect and change the current community college?
                  1. What about the populations that they currently serve that would not be eligible for this program?
                4. Credential-ism creep
                  1. How will employers respond to this?
                  2. Will it further devalue the worth of a HS diploma/GED in the job market?
                  3. Will the value of a BA/BS degree increase with the increase number of AA/some college people?
                5. What about non-traditional students?
                  1. Older, parents, aged-out of foster system, homeless, etc


                I don’t work in education anymore and don’t have the time to research all of this any more, so I’m opening it to the internet.

                Have at it in the comments


                Update (1/29/15) Sara Goldrick-Rab and the good people at the Wisconsin Hope Lab have put together a good FAQ on the President’s community college plan. Check it out.

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