Community College Watch: More States Move Toward Tuition Free College Programs

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Rhode Island Offers Tuition Free Community College

At the beginning of August, Rhode Island became the fourth U.S. state to offer tuition free community college to its residents. There has been a change in approach over the past few years in that tuition incentive programs are becoming fully funded by state legislation and no longer need to rely on a mix of private donors or municipalities, but that doesn’t mean those programs have gone away completely.

44 Programs in 24 States

Time magazine recently posted an article that analyzed 44 programs available in 24 states that offer some sort of two year, tuition-free program, whether they are funded by a city or private industry. Many of these are hyper-local, only offered in certain counties or to attend a particular college while others had no limits on where a student could attend except they limited the tuition amount given to the highest amount charged by their state university. Some have a stipulation where a resident must live; a program offered in Pittsburgh requires the recipient who could receive up to $30,000 in tuition help to have lived there since they were in kindergarten.

But states are starting to realize the importance of programs for all of its residents. Rhode Island joined the ranks of New York, Tennessee and Oregon to offer the benefit that is funded only by taxpayers. With the newly implemented Rhode Island program, there are certain restrictions on the students who can take advantage of the program. First, they must be recent high school graduates with at least a 2.5 GPA so adult learners looking to go back to school to learn new skills would not qualify. Also, the state is still hashing out a requirement that would require students to work in Rhode Island a certain amount of time after graduating. This is an interesting move for the state as it ensures the money spent on education is used to fill jobs within its borders.

Will More States Follow Rhode Island?

We likely haven’t seen the end of states once again investing in their populace as the job market landscape will continue to change for recent high school grads and certain fields will require, at minimum, an associate’s degree or certificate. As more and more Americans receive some sort of higher education training, legislators will see the reinvestment into their constituents pay off over the long term.

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