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Debt Free College? These States are About to Make Tuition-Free Community Colleges Possible

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There are millions of people in America that are choosing not to go or delaying going to college because of the financial burden it can cause them. Even those that have finished college and are upset when they realize there are a lot of student loans to get paid back.

What if school were tuition-free? There’s been a lot of talk going on, driven primarily by President Obama as well as Democrats on the campaign trail, who stated they wanted to make such an idea work. Although many of us have heard of terms like “debt-free” college, the notion of it seems far-fetched.

Even if there’s a possibility of it happening, there might never be a plan that will make collece completely free. If there’s a chance to narrow the cost of tuition, then it could be done by focusing more on the community colleges, which are cheaper.

Offering free courses for students in these colleges are not as far-fetched of an idea. Tennessee recognized this and started a nationwide program this year that will allow every high school graduate (with some caveats) to go to community colleges for free. Minnesota and Oregon are also two other states that proudly approved similar plans. Lawmakers in the City of New York, where there are seven community colleges in , have recently been in discussion and want to join the bandwagon. They also like the idea of making community colleges tuition free for students.

NYC’s office published a report that mentioned how such a program would cost for them to make. It also outlined what they expected it to look like when they implement it. Overall, the city is projecting that they will spend $3,456 per student each year.

The number can seem low compared to what you may have paid when you went to college, let’s break down the actual costs. CUNY’s community college in New York costs $4,800 for the year.

This does not include any additional fees, such books or rent, which would more than double the tuition for students that are off campus. The city would need to cover the entire $4,800 tuition plan for just 40% of students.

The rest of those students would already get some financial assistance to pay for their school. Those individuals would get that help from either the state of the government. The plan the city has in mind would be to pick up any of the remaining expenses that are left.

A big part of the success of this plan will be to structure the program in a way it doesn’t immediately disqualify those from getting access to federal and state grants. CUNY’s community college students get an average of $325 million annually from grants alone. It wouldn’t be smart to cut them off because it would mean the city’s share of the bill could double easily.

The plan is built on the basis that their students would continue to get these funds. It’s estimated that the annual cost to go tuition-free would fall anywhere between $138-232 million. Currently, the city is already helping to fund $306 million per year to community colleges..

The tuition-free benefit may only be accessible to those their first two years in college, that hasn’t been determined yet. Tennessee’s program will cover the first two years of school for a limited amount of students, such as those who are fresh out of high school. The state also asks that these students maintain, at least, a 2.0 GPA, attend two meetings with a mentor, and finish eight hours of community service before moving ahead to a new semester.

It’s still uncertain whether or not such a plan could fix the main issue going on with colleges everywhere. CUNY community college is not different with only 4% of their students successfully graduating with their associate’s degree two years after enrollment Only a quarter of their graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

If there is going to be any other plan added for the NYC,  it would first have to get approved by the city council. There is currently no formal proposal of the plan. However, President Obama’s plan would require that both a state and federal government pick up the tab. To get the ball rolling it would mean the Republican-controlled House and Senate would have to pass the legislation.

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