CFCT Hosts Philadelphia Workshop State Leaders

Posted by Campaign for Free College Tuition on December 20, 2023 at 12:38 PM

The Campaign for Free College Tuition hosted its first in-person event in four years on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 in Philadelphia. Over 50 state policymakers, community and academic leaders, student activists and community college students joined us for an engaging workshop: Making Colleges Tuition-Free: A Workshop for State Leaders.

While Pennsylvania will be one of CFCT’s 2024 target states, the Workshop included attendees from seven states up and down the East coast.

The first panel of the day featured Massachusetts State Representative Natalie Higgins and former Connecticut State Senator Will Haskell, moderated by Ryan Morgan, CFCT’s CEO. Rep. Higgins discussed her bill to make all Massachusetts public colleges and universities in the Bay State tuition-free on a first dollar basis by taxing private college and university endowments above $1 billion. In response to a question regarding Pledge to Advance CT (PACT) – Connecticut’s free college tuition program for community college students, Haskell noted the importance of advertising the program and the inclusion of part-time students to maximize impact.

The next presentation featured Jack MacKenzie, the founder and CEO of CollegeAPP, discussing CFCT’s latest public opinion poll, which — as it has for the last seven years — showed overwhelming cross-partisan support for free college.

Overall support of state free college tuition programs in CFCT’s October 2023 poll was 78 percent, which is remarkably consistent with the 19 previous polls conducted since December 2016.

MacKenzie noted that the current poll of 2,185 U.S. adults aged 18+ featured no gender gap in support of state free college programs.

The poll also evaluated eight statements for level of agreement on the value-added impact (in green below) of college and the cost assessment for college attendance (in yellow below). Overall, the top three responses were for statements supporting free college programs.

Additional insight from CFCT’s latest poll will be posted online in the coming days.

The final panel before lunch featured an excellent discussion on tuition-free college from the federal, state, local and student perspectives. Noah Brown, Senior Advisor, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, focused his remarks on Biden administration budget requests and the administration’s continued support of a federal free college tuition proposal and state free college tuition programs.

Dave Daigler, the President of the Maine Community College System, noted that Maine’s Free College Scholarship supported a 12 percent increase in enrollment in 2022 and a 16 percent increase in enrollment in 2023, in a mostly rural state. Daigler also indicated that the Scholarship needed additional funding to support students graduating high school in 2026 and beyond.

Saleem Ghubril, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Promise, called for the establishment of a statewide free college tuition program in Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Promise announced earlier this year that the class of 2028 will be the last to receive scholarships from the Promise.

Finally, Alexandra Kryos from RISE talked about the importance of college students and younger Americans voting and being civically engaged. She encouraged the 15 or so students in attendance from the Community College of Philadelphia to join RISE in Harrisburg to tell their stories and advocate in support of a free college tuition program in Pennsylvania.

Over lunch, Workshop speakers, attendees and Community College of Philadelphia enjoyed meeting one another and networking.

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, a scholar-activist whose pathbreaking research, teaching, and advocacy has changed how higher education understands and supports college students, delivered our keynote address. In it, she noted that effective higher education policy starts with students. Sara also brought her class of sociology students from the Community College of Philadelphia, and the students were very engaged in the discussion.

She also spent considerable time discussing what making college free does.

Goldrick-Rab concluded her remarks by imploring Pennsylvania policy makers to make the Commonwealth's public college tuition-free.

CFCT would like to thank our speakers and attendees for the engaging dialogue in Philadelphia. The event would not have been possible without the generous support of Jack MacKenzie and CollegeAPP.

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.