The Free College Movement Must Not Leave Adults Behind

"Nearly two years ago we told you about Damaris Ortiz, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to California in her teens. English wasn’t her first language, but she worked hard and found academic success in high school. Still, she struggled, spending a decade at various institutions while working toward an associate degree. She was 29 and emblematic of today’s student. Damaris knew that pursuing a degree or other credential after high school would be the key to unlocking a good life for herself and her son Ezra, then 1. Damaris, who has since married and moved to Puerto Rico, is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree and plans to attend law school. But her path remains difficult. She and many students like her have obligations that go beyond the classroom, which is why we need to emphasize policies that better meet students’ needs," Jesse O'Connell writes for Lumina Foundation.

"Yet many policies ignore the needs of students like Damaris. Take for example the robust national conversation about 'free college' (which states often call 'promise programs'). Until relatively recently, there has been a distressing lack of focus on adults in these discussions. Many of the free college efforts that have emerged have explicitly been tailored for students coming directly out of the K-12 pipeline, leaving out many low-income adults who, arguably, would benefit most from free pathways and the clear messaging about affordability such pathways imply.


Adult students without postsecondary credentials are among those most likely to be struggling in the labor market. They are more likely to have low incomes, and therefore probably eligible for Pell grants. In all but four states, the maximum Pell award is greater than the average tuition and fees at public community colleges. For many adults, tuition and fees at community college already are effectively free—adults just don’t know it because we haven’t told them. Marketing and tailoring promise-type free college programs to this population could be a game-changer."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 12/4/2017

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