Jacob and Stange: Getting free college right

February 9, 2024

Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed making the first two years of community college free in Michigan in her 2024 State of the State Address

In an opinion published in Bridge MichiganBrian Jacob and Kevin Strange applaud Governor Whitmer for her tangible commitment to making education more equitable and accessible in Michigan.

“Investing in people through affordable and high-quality postsecondary education is one of the best things a state can do. Such investment increases economic resilience and upward mobility, spurs technological progress, and increases civic engagement. It pays for itself.”

After years of sustained college affordability investments, the researchers say Michigan is ready for a broad-based free college program. The state can learn from Michigan programs such as Futures for Frontliners, Michigan Reconnect, and the Kalamazoo Promise, among others across the country.

Jacob and Strange also offer evidence-based features that make free college programming successful:

  • Avoid confusing eligibility criteria or other administrative hurdles,
  • Ensure the money gets to students who need it most,
  • Don’t discourage four-year college entry,
  • Streamline pathways from community college to a four year degree, and
  • Recognize that money for tuition is not enough; high quality instruction and support services are essential

“As the home of the nation’s first large-scale promise program, researchers and practitioners in Michigan have the deep expertise to get it right,” they write. “We urge state leaders to take advantage of existing research partnerships as they start to design, implement and assess this ambitious new initiative.”

Read the whole story in Bridge Michigan.

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