At the Campaign for Free College Tuition, we believe that the debate about college affordability shouldn’t be taking place behind closed doors. CFCT and our members care deeply about our nation’s direction, and that’s why on the evening of March 3, 2015, we hosted a conference call with President Obama's free community college point person, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, our very own Morley Winograd, CFCT President and former senior policy advisor to Vice President Gore, and supporters to discuss how we must ensure free college education for all Americans.
To listen to the conference call, click here!
The call was a chance to get first-hand information from an Administration insider, discuss what’s already happening across the country to make college more affordable, and how America can work together to reach CFCT's goal of free undergraduate college tuition in all 50 states.
The conference call was a great success, and the highlight for us was the interactive #CFCTcall Q&A. One of CFCT’s top priorities is making sure all voices are heard in the discussion of college affordability, and by taking audience questions, we got a glimpse into what drives you--some of the most engaged advocates around the country!
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to answer all of the questions during the call, but we wanted to make sure to get back to you. Here are some questions that were left over from the call:
Q from Scholarship America (@ScholAmerica): Scholarship America helps low-to-moderate income students graduate. How does the President’s plan help this group?
CFCT’s A: Low to moderate income students would not have to worry about paying for the first two years of college under the President’s America’s College Promise plan. While completing college is not just a matter of having the money to attend, making tuition free will certainly make it easier for students to focus on their education and spend less time working to pay their tuition bills, or worrying about how much debt they are accumulating if they can’t find work.
Q from Scholarship America (@ScholAmerica): What role do you see the private sector playing to bring to life the idea & importance of free community college?
CFCT’s A: CFCT is engaged in a community level organizing campaign to involve the private sector in supporting the President’s plan. This conference call is really the beginning of that effort. We welcome any organization’s involvement that wants to partner with us to make it happen.
Q from Lachaka Askew: What is the long term cost of this program? In other words, have much will it cost the government in ten years?
CFCT’s A: America’s College Promise is estimated by the Obama administration to cost $60 Billion over ten years.
Q from Lynn S Kahn: 1) What is the total US Department of Education allocated toward tuition at two and four year public colleges? 2) What programs with proven results does the Department consider best practices?
CFCT’s A (1): Information on how much the Federal government currently spends in support of higher education and how that money could be reallocated to cover the cost of providing scholarships to pay for instate tuition at every public two and four year college can be found on CFCT’s website, at http://www.freecollegenow.org/the_full_plan.
CFCT’s A (2): America’s College Promise cites the inter-college transfer plans in CA and FL as best practices in this area. Putting in place such “frictionless” transfer programs makes it possible for any student who gets an associate degree in two years at a state’s community college to transfer to any public four year college program in the state without having to take additional courses to complete their freshman/sophomore year curriculum requirements. In effect, the cost of a four year college degree program would be cut in half with this best practice in place and the passage of President Obama’s America’s College Promise plan.
Q from Nicholas Marritz: Education is a public good. Why do we saddle our children with mortgage-sized debt? All other developed nations have free tuition. Why do we charge $120,000?
CFCT A: Not all countries have free university tuition, in fact most do not. However, the Campaign for Free College Tuition agrees with you that education is a public good and that we should make two and four year public colleges and universities tuition free. You can read how we think this can happen without raising taxes on our website.
Q from Natalia Abrams: How would the free community college proposal impact pell grants?
CFCT A: President Obama’s America’s College Promise plan would provide what are termed “first dollar scholarships” to students attending community colleges. This means the money would be paid to the college to cover a student’s tuition and would not impact a student’s eligibility for Pell Grants at all. Instead, if a student were entitled to a Pell Grant under current rules and regulations, the student could use the Pell Grant money to pay for other costs of attending community college such as textbooks and housing that the America’s College Promise program would not pay for.
Q from Bob Samuels: Many community colleges are under funded and staffed by low paid part-time faculty, how will the President's plan deal with this?
CFCT A: The President’s plan deals with tuition costs and not the capacity of community colleges to absorb all the students who might apply or need additional support. As noted on the call by Under Secretary Mitchell, however, if states find that the federal money that would be provided under the America’s College Promise plan gives them the ability to redirect some of their current subsidies for higher education to deal with the capacity issues you mention, they would be allowed to do so. No state, however, would be allowed to use the federal money to spend less than they currently spend on institutions of higher education in their state.
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.