Bradley senior advisor Mike Krause was quoted in MarketWatch about President Biden’s free community college plan. In September, House Democrats outlined a plan as part of a suite of proposed Build Back Better initiatives that would make two years of community college free through a federal-state partnership. However, the initiative was left out of the final bill.
Critics of the current financial aid system say the system is an obstacle to students, particularly low-income students or those from families with little experience with the college process and getting through school.
Krause said financial aid packages are “inherently esoteric.”
Krause, the former executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and founding executive director of the Tennessee Promise program, said it’s often a combination of already existing financial aid, including Pell Grants, that allows students in Tennessee to attend community college for free. But it was the label of free college that pushed students toward attending and accessing that funding.
“There’s no question we entered in knowing that nothing sells like free,” he said. “What free college got Tennessee that I thought it might have been able to do nationwide is to radically alter the messaging and make it clear to folks that college is within reach.”
Krause said the framing was important to the success of the Tennessee Promise in another way too. The catalyst for the program was realizing that more residents would need training and education in order to meet Tennessee’s future workforce needs.
“It really wasn’t about any inward facing higher education challenges although higher education is unquestionably the pathway to address economic development issues,” Krause said.
The original article, “Politics killed national free community college – for now, but advocates vow to ‘keep going’ as momentum continues in states,” was published in MarketWatch on November 6, 2021.