By Morley Winograd, President of CFCT (Campaign for Free College Tuition) This has been published with the consent of the author
For the first time in American history, students and their families are now paying half or more of the full cost of college—an 18- to 22-percentage point increase at public four-year institutions over the last decade. This is no way to finance our system of higher education at a time when a college degree is increasingly the ticket to economic success for both the student and the country.
The Campaign for Free College Tuition has a plan on how the federal government could provide National Promise Scholarships that would cover the cost of instate tuition for both two and four year college students at NO additional cost to the federal government. Over $50B in existing federal expenditures on higher education, particularly tuition tax credits, is available to fund this program right now. There is no need to wait. We have the resources and the plan to make it happen now.
But while we wait for the gridlock in Congress to come undone, there is much work that can be done in communities and states across the country to make college tuition free. Already, everyone in Tennessee can attend the community college of their choice completely tuition free thanks to the courageous efforts of their governor, Bill Haslam. And many communities in Michigan have taken advantage of that state’s “Promise Community” initiative to make the same offer of free college tuition at any public college or university in the state to their high school graduates that citizens of Kalamazoo have been able to take advantage of since 2005. Similarly, cities across the country such as El Dorado, AR, Pittsburgh, PA, and Denver, CO have put in place Promise programs to make college tuition free at the instigation of local leaders and philanthropic donors.
Now we are reaching out to members of the NLC4 to ask you to join us in our campaign to make college tuition free everywhere in this country. Start a conversation on how to make this a reality in your area. Share our ideas with everyone you know. It can be done. It should be done. And with your help, it will be done.