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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free is New Higher Ed Price-Point

One way colleges and universities can address the rising costs of higher education is to give it away for free. That’s exactly what the program Tulsa Achieve has meant for about 10,000 high-school graduates in Tulsa, OK.

Tulsa Achieve, the brainchild of Tulsa Community College President Tom McKeon, provides a free two-year degree to students living in Tulsa County who compile at least a C average in high school and commit to at least two years of community service. McKeon convinced local businesses and political leaders to find ways to fund the program.

“We established Tulsa Achieves seven years ago because we no longer believed that a high-school diploma was sufficient in terms of the jobs of the future,” McKeon told National Public Radio.

The cost is $3,400 per student each year, with the lion’s share coming from local property taxes. The program also provides each student plenty of support along the way. McKeon reports that eight of 10 students who enter the program finish it.

The Kalamazoo Promise is a similar program that has helped 3,200 students of the Kalamazoo, MI, public schools since 2005. Funded by anonymous donors, the program covers 100% of the tuition bills for students who’ve attended school in the district since kindergarten and 65%-95% for others based on how long they attended schools in Kalamazoo.

Promise scholarships were limited to the 15 public universities and 23 community colleges in Michigan until this month, when 15 private colleges in the state joined the program.

“Evidence indicates that for some students, they are more likely to graduate college if they attend a small, liberal arts school,” Brad Hershbein, an economist at The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, told Michigan Live. “This could help them.”

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