In 2015, President Obama proposed making community college free nationwide. He pointed to a pilot free tuition program just being launched by Tennessee for recent high school graduates and might not have been aware of a free tuition program operating in Louisiana for almost two decades.
The election of Donald Trump killed the prospect of federal assistance. But since states and cities (and tuition) traditionally provide the bulk of funding for higher public education, states and cities should play leadership roles.
Some have. Today, four states and one city are offering free college tuition, with varying conditions. Many more have introduced smaller systems.
In 2018, Tennessee will expand its 2015 program to include all adults who enroll in one of its state community colleges or technical schools as long as they don’t already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, CNN reports. Students must be state residents for at least a year before applying, enroll at least part-time, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service each semester.
In 2018, Rhode Island will inaugurate a four-year pilot program offering free tuition at Rhode Island Community College. Applicants must be recent high school graduates and maintain a 2.5 GPA in college while remaining enrolled full-time. After finishing their degree they must live, work, or continue their education in Rhode Island.
In April, New York institute free tuition for both two- and four- year public colleges for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year. Students must be enrolled full-time and live and work in New York for the same number of years they received the scholarship.
As noted, Louisiana’s tuition scholarship program (TOPS) went into effect in 1998 and pays the tuition of students who attend, “either one of the Louisiana Public Colleges and Universities, schools that are a part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Louisiana approved Proprietary and Cosmetology Schools or institutions that are a part of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.” Louisiana’s is the only program that pays tuition at private and four-year institutions. Students must have graduated from an in-state high school and meet two academic requirements: a 2.5 high school GPA in core classes and at least an average standardized test score. Those with higher grades can receive $400 to $800 in extra funding to help meet the costs of other college expenses. Continue reading