Momentum Builds for Free College Tuition

Presidential Candidates and Communities Commit To Affordable College

When the Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) first began, one of our goals was to bring the idea of free, universal higher education into the mainstream of public policy debate. Now that almost all presidential campaigns are talking about the challenge of making college more affordable, we think we are well on our way to accomplishing that goal. We also believe that creating demonstrations of the power of Promise programs in states and communities hastens the day when free college tuition is true in all fifty states. That’s why we are so pleased to see the Democratic legislature in  Oregon join the Republican Governor of Tennessee in making all of their state's’ community colleges tuition free. And as you can see from our national map, the number of communities committed to funding Promise programs that make college tuition free for their public school graduates is also continuing to grow. Our third goal was to build an army of local supporters dedicated to advocating on behalf of free college tuition. We are pleased to have identified over 5000 supporters of our cause. Now is the time for you to get involved with CFCT too! Join us by signing up to volunteer. 

March 2016

  • Detroit Promise Announced,effective 2016-2017 school year, Detroit students who graduate from any high school in the city - public, private or charter- will be guaranteed two tuition-free years of community college. The Detroit promise will pay for tuition costs not covered by grants and other scholarships students receive, and they’ll be able to attend five Detroit-area community colleges.

  • Southern Summit on College Affordability. Held in Nashville Tennessee, the home of the Tennessee Promise. At the end of March in Nashville, Tennessee, we were graced with the presence of local and regional leaders from over 10 southern states eager to discuss and learn about the Tennessee Promise program and pioneering free college tuition programs in their region. You can read more about the Summit here.

January 2016

  • WA Announces legislation for WA Promise. Washington’s Promise Scholarships help alleviate the debt burden for middle-income families and make college more affordable for lower-income families by supplementing other financial-aid awards. Washington’s Promise Scholarship can be applied to tuition at public or private colleges and universities in Washington. Students in low-income families who qualify for state and federal grants for post-secondary education can also receive a Promise Scholarship. Establishing and funding Washington’s Promise Scholarship as a permanent program demonstrates a stronger commitment to student learning, sending the message that those who work hard and perform well in school will have financial support in order to attain their dreams of a college education.

  • Oakland California announces local Oakland Promise, a cradle to career free college tuition program to support students and their families from birth, through college, and into their career. Babies born into poverty in Oakland will have a college savings account of $500 dollars opened in their names--setting an expectation from birth. The Oakland Promise will then establish a universal college savings program for kindergarteners in Oakland Public schools. In partnership with East Bay College Fund, every eligible Oakland student will receive a college scholarship ranging from $1,000 to $16,000. Scholarships will be phased in by school, with a goal of tripling the number of Oakland Unified high school graduates who complete college. Beyond money, the Oakland Promise will offer services to their students in order to prepare them for college and ensure they have the support they need to enroll in the college of their choice and persist through their college years and earn a diploma.

Pictured: Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell and CFCT President Morley Winograd at the Oakland Promise Launch in Oakland CA.

October 2015

  • For the first-time ever, the issue of tuition-free college was endorsed during a debate by the two leading candidates seeking their party’s nomination for President of the United States.  

    At the CNN/Facebook Democratic Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stated, “what we said 50 years ago and a hundred years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college."

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted her plan “would enable anyone to go to a public college or university tuition free. You would not have to borrow money for tuition."

 August 2015

  • Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveils details on a new proposal to use federal incentives as a means to attract states to reinvest in their higher education. Her New College Compact Plan, outlines efforts to lower college tuition costs, thus eliminating the need for students to take out loans to pay for their college education. She also endorsed President Obama’s America’s College Promise plan to make community colleges tuition free.

Hillary Clinton

  • Presidential candidate Jeb Bush publicly comes out supporting state run free college tuition programs.  

“There are great programs around the country — one of the ones I most admire is a project called Tennessee Promise, where every student that participates gets their community college education, at least for the first two years, debt free, free of tuition.”

Jeb Bush

  • CFCT holds the Pacific Northwest Summit on College Affordability in Seattle, WA with U.S. Undersecretary, Ted Mitchell, as the keynote speaker. In a room filled with many influential leaders from state representatives, Kalamazoo educators to top leaders of foundations and companies, Oregon State Senator Hass, sponsor of the Oregon Promise Program, proclaims this movement as nonpartisan as apple pie and calls for unity for a common good.

July 2015

  • Oregon’s Senate bill 81, also known as ‘Oregon's Promise,’ passes following in the footsteps of Tennessee. This bill will become effective during the academic year of 2016-2017, in which in-state community college students will have their tuition waived as they pursue their degrees. 


  • CFCT holds its first webinar giving grassroots activists the opportunity to ask senior staff and organizers questions on how to mobilize around free college tuition in their own communities.   

 May 2015

  • Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders presents prospective voters new legislation that will assist students by fully covering their tuition at 4-year universities.

“It is a national disgrace that hundreds of thousands of Americans today do not go to college, not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it.”

Bernie Sanders

 April 2015

  • CFCT hosts Summit in the heart of the Silicon Valley focusing on college affordability, furthering the discussion on making postsecondary education more accessible and less costly. The meeting features remarks by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, centering on President Obama's America’s College Promise proposal.

  • Starbucks makes a significant commitment to its employees by announcing their  Achievement Plan. Their unique partnership with Arizona State University will provide their employees, 70% of which are students or prospective degree seekers, free tuition through a reimbursement program.


 March 2015

  • Martin O’Malley, Democratic presidential candidate, calls for refinancing our educational system. O'Malley aims to create a debt-free college option by incentivising states to investment more in higher education, expanding income based loan repayment systems as a means to alleviate existing financial burdens, and instituting mechanisms for tuition control to stop the skyrocketing prices of public colleges.

January 2015

  • President Barack Obama introduces America’s College Promise plan to make first two years of community college tuition free. We applaud the president's initiative and believe that it will transform higher education helping countless families achieve the American Dream.

Barack Obama 

  • CFCT hosts Summit in Washington, D. C., with higher education associations to discuss President’s plan and examine ways to gain bi-partisan support for it.

 November 2014

  • To better clarify their focus, our year old nonprofit in support of free college tuition, Redeeming America’s Promise (RAP) takes on the new name of the Campaign for Free College Tuition and relaunches at

 June 2014

  • Former Governors James Blanchard (D-MI) and Michael Castle (R-DE) endorse our plan for National Promise Scholarships to make two and four year public colleges tuition free at National Press Club event. Thousands signal their support as the group gains momentum.

 May 2014

  • Tennessee Promise pledges to pay tuition not covered by grants and scholarships at a community college level. Program goes into effect for fall 2015 freshman class. 

Nashville State Community College 

 April 2014

  • With the backing of supporters, Redeeming America’s Promise, presently known as Campaign for Free College Tuition, launches their website with a focus on a federal plan to make college tuition free.

 January 2014

  • Before becoming Redeeming America’s Promise, the group, inspired by Kalamazoo’s Promise Program, develops a four step plan make college tuition free on a federal level without raising income taxes.

 May 2013

  • Before becoming Redeeming America’s Promise, the group holds first meeting in Washington, D.C. Several invitees suggest college tuition could be free if we reallocated existing federal expenditures on Higher Education. It becomes one of the proposals the group asks to be developed as alternative ideas on how to eliminate cost as a barrier to attending college.

College Students

 Early 2013

  • The original founders of the Campaign for Free College tuition started as a group of seasoned policy experts and former elected officials discussing how they might collaborate to produce new ideas to spur economic mobility through higher education.

March 2012

  • Student debt rises above 1 trillion dollars marking a significant problem in higher education affordability and its financing system.

 November 2005

  • A small group of anonymous donors in Kalamazoo, MI promise to pay 100% of college tuition for in-state students.



We can't do this alone!

Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.

We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.

If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education. This website and CFCT’s educational outreach activities are made possible through generous individual and foundation support.