Free college tuition was not even a topic in the 2012 Presidential campaign. My how times have changed for the better.
The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) began soon after that election with several major goals. Let’s see what we and others who are on the bandwagon have accomplished:
Goal 1. Educate a broad group of leaders and grassroots organizations about the need for Free College tuition and the tremendous benefits it will bring to our economy and to our citizens.
Making college affordable is top of mind for all elected officials and candidates and most community leaders today. People who might have fallen off their chairs laughing at the idea just a few months or years ago are now discussing the most efficacious ways to make Promise Programs happen, not whether this fundamental change is necessary in the 21st Century. For example, major Presidential candidate in both parties are proposing ideas on how to make college more affordable. The issue was not even on the radar four years ago.
Goal 2. Develop and encourage others to develop workable and politically viable plans.
We have gone from no plans just a few years ago to so many produced by think tanks, candidates, governments, and academics that it is difficult to keep track. CFTC’s own plan, developed over 14 months and released in June 2014 after consultation with all segments engaged in higher education and/or preparing the 21st Century Workforce, is still rock solid. But we have no pride of authorship. We support all proposals that contain the same objectives and are politically saleable to leaders in both parties. We have also reinforced the idea that there is not one plan that is best for every state, community, higher education institution, student, and employer. It is also critical that each plan brings change in the higher education world itself to reduce overall higher education costs and to increase dramatically the percentage of students graduating from college. Students must take more personal responsibility for making satisfactory academic progress. Government and the community must offer mentors for at risk students. Remediation programs must be upgraded or changed substantially to assist the large numbers of students whose K-12 education has not prepared them adequately to handle college level work.
Goal 3. Implement plans and programs across the country that demonstrate the value of Free College Tuition.
Progress in implementing Promise Plans has exceeded our wildest expectations. Tennessee, with a fiscally conservative Governor and legislature, was the first to adopt a statewide Promise Program. Oregon, with a much more liberal political climate has now done the same. These plans were developed and are being implemented in less than three years. Other states are now examining how to adopt and implement their own programs. The number of community programs is exploding. Kalamazoo, MI, which adopted the first Promise Program, continues to operate a first class program, as documented by the Upjohn Institute which has studied every step of their program, especially student success rates. We 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.
CFCT has also been dedicated from the beginning of our effort to building an army of local supporters who will advocate on behalf of free college tuition. We are pleased to have identified over 5000 such supporters of our cause. Now is the time for you to get involved with CFCT too! Join us by signing up to volunteer.
CFCT Strategy Team Member
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.