Beginning this fall, Tennessee becomes the first state in the nation to make community college free for nearly all adult residents, an expansion of its program for recent high school graduates and a celebrated model of reducing higher-education costs. The trend of free tuition at community colleges is growing across the nation as lawmakers realize the best way to improve our economy is to educate citizens.
California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island joined the movement with their own statewide free community-college programs. New York offers free tuition at two- and four-year colleges for students whose families earn no more than $125,000 a year, the largest state to offer such a program. Last week, Maryland joined the movement when Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law a measure to provide “last-dollar” grants for recent grads attending community college to cover tuition left over after deducting other scholarships and grants.
When Tennessee Promise launched in 2014, few guessed that the state would start the advancement of statewide free higher education. Most considered tuition-free college programs impossible, but Tennessee and other states prove that it is not only possible, but makes good business sense. Today, more than 200 programs at the municipal and state level cover the cost of tuition, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy. It’s a simple fact–good jobs, thriving businesses and a strong economy require an educated and skilled workforce.