The idea of tuition-free community college is not all that new. Tulsa Community College, Tulsa, OK, has been offering students the credits to earn a free associate degree since 2007.
The program, Tulsa Achieves, pays tuition for three years of college for high school grads from Tulsa County. The only stipulations are the students must enroll right out of high school, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and perform 40 hours of community service each year they’re in the program.
The college even covers book costs for several hundred of the students through a textbook trust created through private donations. The school enrolled 1,350 students the first year of the program and has had about 1,500 local students sign up each year since then.
There is a cost, of course. Tulsa CC paid nearly $3 million in additional aid in the program’s first year and $3.7 million last year. However, 44% of the first class transferred to a four-year institution and 22% of those first students have earned since a bachelor’s degree.
“We consider it a strong economic-development tool for Tulsa County,” Lauren Brookey, vice president for external affairs at Tulsa CC, said in a report for Inside Higher Education. “People in Tulsa love this program.”