The Campaign for Free College Tuition concluded a series of six regional Summits on College Affordability at the Ford Foundation in New York City on July 21st. Similar to other Summits in the series, there were over 50 attendees, including leading business, philanthropic and civic leaders. While CFCT’s fearless leader, Morley Winograd, was unable to travel to New York due to a minor leg injury, we were very pleased that U.S. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell was able to join us for the fourth time to help kickoff the event and speak on President Obama’s America’s College Promise initiative.
His predecessor at the U.S. Department of Education, Martha Kanter, was the second speaker on the agenda and presented in her current capacity as Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign. In addition to providing an overview of the College Promise Campaign, Professor Kanter highlighted and directly addressed some of the common criticisms on making community colleges tuition free. These include: the misconception that college is not for everyone; low community college graduation rates; the potential for public college to limit access for qualified community college transfer students, and; fiscal cost & sustainability. In sum, Kanter told Summit participant that “guaranteeing the first two years of college to any actively progressing student is investment in America that offers a reasonable approach to addressing rising college costs and college debt.”
Other Summit highlights included:
A presentation by LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow and Mark Healy on why collaboration between colleges and employers is necessary to address critical workforce needs.
A Conversation with Say Yes to Education featuring Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President; George Weiss, Chairman; and Samuel Radford, III, President of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, which represents parent interests within the Buffalo Public Schools District. Say Yes’s work in Buffalo, New York was featured as a case study.
While the statistics are impressive, Sam Radford eloquently talked about the on the ground experience of Say Yes in Buffalo. He noted that despite (too) frequent turnover of school superintendents, they kept the conversation going and established the collaboration necessary to transform the community. He noted that from barbershops to churches people are talking about college.
A research panel featuring Janice Brown, the former Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Promise, and Jennifer Iriti from the University of Pittsburgh that highlighted the positive impact Promise Programs are having on both K-12 and postsecondary education, as well as on community and economic development.
Dr. Richard Sebastian, the Director of Achieving the Dream's Open Education Resources (OER) Degree Initiative, discussing how OER can cut the cost of learning materials and increase postsecondary education outcomes. The following slide outlines the high impact of OER adoption.
His organization is funding efforts at 38 community colleges to create OER degrees over 31 months. In many cases, these efforts will cut the total cost of obtaining the degree by 25 percent.
In closing, CFCT would like to thank our speakers and attendees, Say Yes to Education, the College Promise Campaign, LaGuardia Community College, the Ford and Hewlett Foundations, and others who helped us execute a very successful Summit.
Campaign for Free College Tuition
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.