The Free Two-Year College Movement

Given the importance of postsecondary credentials to succeeding in today’s labor market, access to and completion of two- and four-year degrees has become a high priority for higher education leaders, government officials and employers. In 2014, Tennessee launched the Tennessee Promise, which granted Tennesseans tuition-free access to two-year colleges in the state. Oregon, in 2015, passed a similar piece of legislation and President Obama made America’s College Promise—a national roll-out of this style of program—a hallmark of his State of the Union address.

While the program goes to great lengths to create unprecedented levels of access to higher education, the focus must turn to how colleges will manage life in this new reality and how the higher education marketplace will have to shift to adjust to this new level of access. This Feature focuses on those elements of the free two-year college movement.


Understanding the Value of America’s College Promise

It’s Time to Make College an Expectation for All

Expanding the promise of affordable higher education for everyone from the local and state level to the national level is critical to ensuring the most number of people possible have access to the opportunities offered by today’s labor market.

America’s College Promise Will Mend Our Economy

Creating free access to two-year degrees for students across the United States will create a range of highly positive outcomes for individuals, employers and the economy.


Infrastructural Considerations to Make the Model Work

Making the Dream a Reality: Logistical and Infrastructural Considerations for the Free Two-Year College Environment

and Kristina Keller | Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, St. Cloud Technical and Community College

Opening the doors to two-year colleges more widely is a great start, but government bodies must ensure colleges have the resources necessary to serve these students if these free college plans are to achieve their goals.

Focus on Scalable Support Critical for the Success of the Oregon Promise

The Oregon Promise provides exciting opportunities to create access to higher education for underserved populations, but colleges need to think about how to scale their support mechanisms to ensure students persist and complete.

Online Models Provide Answers to Free Tuition Infrastructure Questions

The flexibility and scalability that characterize online colleges could be beneficial for traditional two-year colleges struggling with how they might adapt to serve the increasing numbers of students that will accompany a national tuition-free model for two-year education.


Room For Improvement

Investment in Access Must Be Matched By Investment in Success

Though America’s College Promise and other free two-year college tuition plans do great work in terms of expanding access to higher education, further investment in college infrastructure is critical to ensuring students persist and earn their credentials.

Current Iteration of Oregon Promise Leaves Out Adults and Completion

While the Oregon Promise is an immensely positive first step towards increasing degree completion statewide, it’s oversight of non-traditional students and lack of funding for retention and success initiatives leaves room for improvement.


Considerations for Operating in the Free Tuition Environment

Improved Efficiency Critical to Student Success in the Free Tuition Environment

The access created by America’s College Promise needs to be matched by improved efficiency at colleges and universities to facilitate student success and transfer.

Free Community College: Proceed With Caution

Though moves to increase postsecondary access and attainment are laudable, moves like the Tennessee Promise may well lead students away from meeting their academic potential.


The Opportunities Created by America’s College Promise

A Common Vision: America’s College Promise Relies on Bipartisan Support and Partnerships

The realization of America’s College Promise could create significant advantages for individuals and for the economy, but its success relies on bipartisan support at the federal levels and partnerships between federal and state government bodies.

America’s College Promise: An Opportunity We Can’t Afford to Ignore

Though some colleges, like Miami-Dade, have already put scholarship programs into place to create access for low-income students, it’s time for programs like America’s College Promise to bring that mentality to the national scale.

America’s College Promise is the Pathway to Access Mission Fulfillment

America’s College Promise creates an environment for two-year colleges where the access mission is supported and student success becomes a priority.

Over the course of this Mini Feature, we published articles and interviews from contributors across the American higher education landscape sharing their insights on managing the transition to a free two-year college model. A few of the issues to address are:

  1. How will moving to a free two-year college model impact the higher education landscape?
  2. What kinds of infrastructural changes will colleges need to make to operate effectively under these conditions?
  3. What are the roadblocks standing in the way of a national free two-year college environment?