Can Community College Systems and Infrastructure Handle Free Tuition?

Jan 9, 2015Rachel Kanakaole

The President's proposal for free tuition is exciting, but some parts of the plan may need revision if community colleges are going to be able to execute it.

“We don’t expect the country to be transformed overnight, but we do expect this conversation to begin tomorrow.”

The President's proposal for free tuition is exciting, but some parts of the plan may need revision if community colleges are going to be able to execute it.

“We don’t expect the country to be transformed overnight, but we do expect this conversation to begin tomorrow.”

The conversation President Obama’s domestic policy chief, Cecilia Munoz, is referring to is one that we are all familiar with: access to quality education. This extended conversation, which continued today with the president's speech at Pellissippi Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, includes President Obama’s new proposal to make the first two years of community college completely free for students looking to transfer, or to get an associates degree or technical job training.

The president’s proposal, America’s College Promise, is looking to build a shared responsibility between the federal government, states, colleges. and students across the country to reexamine and reinvest in our education systems. Modeled after similar plans currently being adopted by states such as Tennessee, community colleges offering programs that fully transfer, or provide a degree or job training would be eligible for funding from the federal government to help make tuition free for students. The program would apply to half- and full-time students who maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and make “steady progress” towards their goals. What exactly “steady progress” means remains to be clearly defined, along with many other details, such as where the federal funding will come from. President Obama says he will release those details in his State of the Union address on January 20.

Even without all of the specifics, I can say that as a current community college student, access to and affordability of classes is crucial in determining whether or not I will graduate in a timely manner. However, it is not solely lack of money that hinders us students from being able to complete a program in two years, but a combination of multiple infrastructural issues such as course offerings, classroom space, and most importantly, proper guidance to navigate the complex systems that are the basis of the college itself. America’s College Promise is not only aiming to provide the always-needed financial assistance, but also requiring colleges to adopt “promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes,” such as the successful Accelerated Student in Associates Program (ASAP) at the City University of New York.  Programs such as ASAP provide much needed resources such as guidance, counseling, and schedule planning, which are all crucial components to graduating on time.

The Obama administration believes adopting research-backed programs, like ASAP, nationwide, will provide students with the additional help needed to successfully complete their education in two years. While in theory, the blanket adoption of specific programs such as these would benefit some students in some states, it most likely would not benefit all students in all states. Take my campus, San Bernardino Valley College, which is located in the bankrupt city of San Bernardino in Southern California. What works for the population in Knoxville, Tennessee will not necessarily address the needs of students 2,000 miles across the country that are from very different economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. It could also add extra pressure on already stressed community college systems by forcing college administrators, faculty members, and students to learn and navigate yet another assistance program on campus. It seems redundant to force a community college that already has counseling services, academic advisors, and multiple assistance programs of their own to adopt additional programs, instead of encouraging better technical and skills training for those already employed on their campuses in areas such as counseling, advising, and educational planning. Many schools already provide the pathways for that type of guidance and counseling to occur, they just need to be reexamined and reinvigorated instead of ignored and replaced.

Another major question this proposal brings up is one of capacity. Again, using my community college as an example, with close to 13,000 students enrolled full-time, classroom space is already extremely limited, financially and physically. Schools would be pressured to create additional course offerings to accomodate higher enrollment, which is already an issue colleges across the country have had great difficulty with.

So, can America’s College Promise truly be fulfilled? I believe so, but not until a few critical components are reexamined and rewritten. The intention is there, but thankfully this is not a final proposal and is continuing to undergo development.

Rachel Kanakaole is the Chapter Head of the San Bernardino Valley Community College chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and one of the New Chapters Coordinator for the Western Region.

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Daily Digest - January 9: Charity and Government Are Not Interchangeable

Jan 9, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Mike Konczal and David Beito Debate Charity vs. Government (Stossel)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal counters right-wing arguments that charity can take the place of government in protecting social welfare.

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Mike Konczal and David Beito Debate Charity vs. Government (Stossel)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal counters right-wing arguments that charity can take the place of government in protecting social welfare.

  • Roosevelt Take: Mike explained his argument on the "voluntarism fantasy" in greater depth in Democracy last year.

Europe’s Lapse of Reason (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says that even as Europeans elect new leaders in their countries, their governments continue on a failed path of austerity, which must change.

House Democrats Swiftly Kill a Quiet Republican Plot to Protect Wall Street (The Guardian)

David Dayen says the work to stop this Republican anti-financial reform bill package demonstrates the Democratic strategy of making these economic fights very public.

Obama Plan Would Help Many Go to Community College Free (NYT)

The president's proposal would cover tuition for full- and half-time students who maintain a 2.5 GPA, report Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Tamar Lewin. It's a hard sell with a Republican Congress.

This Boehner/McConnell Obamacare 'Fix' Could Hurt Millions of Americans (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik says readers shouldn't believe a GOP-authored op-ed's claims about changing the definition of full-time work under Obamacare. It's really a handout to employers.

America’s Workplaces Are Hostile to Families (The Nation)

Michelle Chen explores the ways that American employers make it difficult for workers to have children, as well as policy proposals that could fill the gaps.

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Daily Digest - January 8: A Limited Internet? That's No Internet at All.

Jan 8, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Zero for Conduct (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says "zero rating," a practice of allowing mobile users to access a limited network of apps without data charges, is monopolistic and anti-innovation.

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Zero for Conduct (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says "zero rating," a practice of allowing mobile users to access a limited network of apps without data charges, is monopolistic and anti-innovation.

Food Stamp Benefit Cut May Force a Million People Into 'Serious Hardship' (AJAM)

As some states end their waiver allowing unemployed childless adults access to food stamps, Ned Resnikoff reports that food banks and other charities don't feel able to fill the gap.

America is Optimistic About Jobs in 2015 Despite Stubbornly Low Wages (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic looks at the wide range of data available about the economy and especially the labor market to explain why Americans should perhaps be more cautious in their optimism.

Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait accuses the GOP of destroying the Congressional Budget Office's greatest power – its ideological neutrality – for the sake of passing tax cuts that won't fix the economy.

Soaring Bond Prices May Sound an Economic Warning (NYT)

Peter Eavis cautions that incredibly low yield rates on U.S. Treasury notes could indicate a coming economic stall or downturn, according to historic patterns.

Workers' Wages Have Barely Grown in Decades. Here's What Obama's Doing About It. (TNR)

Danny Vinik speaks to Lawrence Mishel and Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, who suggest the "Obama wage initiative" package of executive actions are making a difference.

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Daily Digest - December 19: It's a Whole New Economic Policy-Making World

Dec 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Uncharted Interest Rate Territory (U.S. News & World Report)

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Uncharted Interest Rate Territory (U.S. News & World Report)

Jason Gold points out that since interest rates have been declining for 33 years, none of today's lawmakers know quite what they're in for when the Fed begins to raise rates in 2015.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that raising interest rates is not the way to fight "financial instability."

The Greatest Tax Story Ever Told (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Zachary R. Mider shares the story of the very first corporate tax inversion, in which a company incorporates abroad to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The idea was invented by a liberal tax lawyer in 1982.

A Big Safety Net and Strong Job Market Can Coexist. Just Ask Scandinavia. (NYT)

The strong safety net programs in Scandinavian countries, which include far more direct aid, might be more effective at getting people to work than the U.S. tax subsidy model, writes Neil Irwin.

How ALEC Helped Undermine Public Unions (WaPo)

Alex Hertel-Fernandez explains that ALEC's attacks on public sector unions aren't new: ALEC-backed anti-union laws were enacted in some states a decade before the Great Recession.

Pro-Warren Protesters Take Their Fight to Wall Street (MSNBC)

Zachary Roth reports on yesterday's protest at Citigroup's New York City headquarters, where protesters denounced the Citigroup-crafted measure weakening Dodd-Frank in the spending bill.

From the E.R. to the Courtroom: How Nonprofit Hospitals Are Seizing Patients’ Wages (ProPublica)

Paul Kiel and Chris Arnold profile the Missouri hospital that sues the most patients in the state. Nonprofit hospitals are required to offer low-cost charity care, but that isn't particularly regulated.

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Daily Digest - December 18: Can Subprime Lending Really Be Safe?

Dec 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Return of Subprime Lending (AJAM)

Matt Birkbeck says a new wave of subprime mortgages appear to be following much stricter rules and have far less usurious interest rates, but regulators are still watching closely.

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The Return of Subprime Lending (AJAM)

Matt Birkbeck says a new wave of subprime mortgages appear to be following much stricter rules and have far less usurious interest rates, but regulators are still watching closely.

Paid Maternity Leave Is Good for Business (WSJ)

Susan Wojcicki says that the United States is behind the rest of the world in not offering paid maternity leave to all mothers, and that such a policy makes good sense socially and economically.

Federal Reserve Says It Will Be ‘Patient’ on Interest Rate Timing (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum reports on the latest comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen about when the Fed will start raising interest rates. The process won't begin before April.

Fired Walmart Worker Says She Had to Choose Between a Paycheck and a Child (The Guardian)

Lauren Gambino and Jessica Glenza profile one former Walmart employee who was still asked to work with dangerous chemicals after her doctor said they would endanger her pregnancy.

What Was the Job? (Pacific Standard)

Kyle Chayka says the gig economy brought with it a massive reinterpretation of what it means to have a job, leaving behind a disenfranchised workforce without any of the benefits it once enjoyed.

New on Next New Deal

Ten Years: Students Moving the Country Forward

Roosevelt Institute Vice President of Networks Taylor Jo Isenberg reflects on the Campus Network's tenth anniversary, and how Roosevelters can continuing pushing for a better country for all of us.

Two Contradictory Arguments That Dodd-Frank is Crony Capitalism

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal compares two mutually exclusive conservative analyses of what crony capitalism means and how to fix it, which suggest this isn't a useful concept in policy debates.

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Daily Digest - December 17: Who Takes the Biggest Share of the Sharing Economy?

Dec 17, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Bloomberg Advantage: Konczal on Uber (Bloomberg)

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The Bloomberg Advantage: Konczal on Uber (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that since most of the capital in Uber is in the cars, it's hard to justify the software developers getting such a large chunk of profits.

Senate Democrats Tell the SEC to Get Moving on CEO Pay Rule (HuffPo)

The public comment period for the CEO pay ratio rule expired a year ago, and some Senate Democrats are tired of waiting for it to be implemented, reports Zach Carter.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg explains the CEO pay debate in this recent primer.

Unions Sue to Stop Chicago Pension Overhaul (Chicago Sun-Times)

Fran Spielman explains why a dozen retirees and their four unions are suing the city: they say the changes are against the state constitution, which guarantees government pensions.

Some Investors Still Heart Big Banks, No Matter What Elizabeth Warren Says (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee considers why some investors are putting their money with the big banks, despite the continued question of whether regulators will try to break them up.

Are the Democrats Allowing Social Security to Twist in the Wind? (LA Times)

Failing to vote on a Social Security commissioner is just another examples of Democrats' failure to provide this essential program with strong enough support, writes Michael Hiltzik.

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party? (TAP)

Robert Kuttner characterizes the new spending bill as proof that our two major parties are fundamentally the same: willing to gut Dodd-Frank, defund the EPA, and cut Pell grants.

The U.S. Middle Class Has Faced a Huge “Inequality Tax” in Recent Decades (EPI)

Josh Bivens shows how U.S. middle-class income could have grown if it had matched the average growth rate over that time, as occurred following World War II.

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Daily Digest - December 11: We Don't Need Weakened Financial Regulations in the Spending Bill

Dec 11, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Democrats Revolt Against 'Wall Street Giveaway' In Deal To Prevent Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

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Democrats Revolt Against 'Wall Street Giveaway' In Deal To Prevent Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

Zach Carter and Sabrina Siddiqui quote Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz on why a provision that will bring risky derivative trades under FDIC protection is a disaster.

Warren Leads Liberal Democrats’ Rebellion Over Provisions in $1 Trillion Spending Bill (WaPo)

Senator Warren is calling on House Democrats to withhold support of the spending bill unless this derivatives provision is removed, report Lori Montgomery and Sean Sullivan.

Congress' Backroom Pension-Cutting Deal is Even Worse Than Expected (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik details the pension-cutting measure attached to the omnibus spending bill, which he says has far fewer protections for older retirees than originally implied.

The Wall Street Takeover of Charity (ProPublica)

Donor-advised charitable funds, which are run by financial firms, aren't increasing charitable giving as much as they're making money for the firms, writes Jesse Eisinger.

Walmart Illegally Punished Workers, Judge Rules (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on a National Labor Relations Board decision in California, which found that Walmart managers had illegally intimidated workers for supporting unionizing efforts.

The Economic Threat to Cities Isn't Gentrification; It's the Opposite (Vox)

With gentrification comes a higher concentration of poverty, writes Danielle Kurtzleben, and increased economic segregation comes with less economic mobility.

New on Next New Deal

The Financial Regulation Congress Is Quietly Trying to Destroy in the Budget

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal explains why Section 716 of Dodd-Frank was implemented in the first place, and why weakening it today would put the economy and taxpayers at risk.

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Daily Digest - December 1: Low Consumer Confidence is Boosting the Minimum Wage Fight

Dec 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren ties business support for a higher minimum wage to the drop in consumer confidence: business owners know people need money to spend.

Five Economic Trends to Be Thankful For (NYT)

In the spirit of the holiday, Neil Irwin looks on the bright side of this year's economic news, highlighting trends like lower gas prices and increases in people voluntarily quitting their jobs.

The Big Business of Small Wage Gains (WSJ)

Justin Lahart suggests that the growth of large employers lessens worker's bargaining power over wages by giving them fewer options to choose from.

U.S. Cities Making It Harder to Feed the Homeless (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee questions why 22 cities have passed ordinances that make it more difficult to feed the homeless in public places, seemingly motivated by downtown "revitalization."

An Udderly Bad Job (In These Times)

Joseph Sorrentino reports on the exceedingly poor labor practices that characterize the dairy industry. The sometimes-dangerous work includes low pay, no overtime, and no worker's comp.

Real World Contradicts Right-Wing Tax Theories (AJAM)

With California raising taxes and seeing higher job growth than Kansas, which cut taxes, David Cay Johnston says the real-world data disproves Republican theories.

New on Next New Deal

There Will Be Another Michael Brown: Millennial Perspectives on Ferguson

Campus Network members and staff respond to last week's news that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not stand trial for the shooting of Michael Brown.

Universities Can Prevent the Race to the Bottom for Labor Standards

Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith and Campus Network Midwest Regional Coordinator Julius Goldberg-Lewis argue that universities must set better standards for doing business in a tech-driven era.

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Daily Digest - November 25: Wall Street's Deals Hit Every Taxpayer

Nov 25, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

Elias Isquith interviews Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti about his new report on how governments can push back against Wall Street's predatory deals.

Food Pantries Stretched to Breaking Point by Food Stamp Cuts (AJAM)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the crisis facing food pantries in NYC, where one-third of food banks and soup kitchens had to turn people away in September.

Corporate America Is Using the Sharing Economy to Turn Us Into Temps (TNR)

Noam Scheiber says the sharing economy's expansion into temp work is part of a trend of workforce restructuring from hiring staff for peak loads to hiring the absolute minimum.

This Is the Next Big Fight Between Progressives and the Wall Street Dems (The Nation)

Senator Warren and others are protesting the nomination of Antonio Weiss to a major role in Treasury, citing his work on tax-avoiding practices like corporate inversions, writes Zoë Carpenter.

Let Old Labor Die (In These Times)

Jeremy Gantz reviews Tom Geoghegan's new book, which prescribes new models of labor organizing that are more democratic, outside of the bounds of the National Labor Relations Board.

New on Next New Deal

Artisanal Millennials and the Resurrection of Free Labor Ideology

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development Brit Byrd says growing preferences for artisanal products cannot be allowed to erase the importance of wage labor in our economy.

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Leadership Wanted: Governor Cuomo, Homeless Students Need College Support

Nov 20, 2014Kevin Stump

For homeless youth to make it through college, they need extra support, best provided through a government program of homeless liaisons.

For homeless youth to make it through college, they need extra support, best provided through a government program of homeless liaisons.

New York has been among the top 10 states with unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) filing for federal financial aid for the last three years. In a private report to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the United States Department of Education, reports that there were 2,215 college students applying for financial aid in New York who indicated on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid that they were homeless last year. This number does not include undocumented youth who are not eligible to apply for federal or state aid.

Unfortunately, these students are often left behind. It wasn’t until last year that New York changed an extremely outdated component of its $1 billion Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) that updated this 40-year-old in-state need-based financial aid program. The change made it so UHY are now eligible for the maximum TAP award of $5,165 that Dependent students are eligible for, versus the maximum TAP award of $3,025 available to Independent students.

In addition to outdated laws that limit the amount of aid they can receive, UHY face a number of other challenges including food insecurity, a lack of adult guidance and support, failure to access available support systems, lack of access to parental financial information, limited housing options, and a lack of financial means to live independently and safely.

New York should create a policy that models the federal McKinney-Vento Act on a college level. This landmark piece of legislation successfully creates safety nets and institutional support structures for K-12 students. By law, every school district in the country, and every school building in New York City, is required to have a liaison who is responsible for coordinating support and resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth. Every year, liaisons are required to undergo training to stay current on best practices to support and assist homeless students. Furthermore, their work has given lawmakers data and information on the best ways to support these communities.

There are more than 130,000 K-12 homeless students in New York. Among those students, nearly 11,000 11th and 12th graders approaching the end of their high school careers. These are only the numbers that are reported and do not account for the possibility of additional students who are in need.

Given the number of colleges and universities, the number of community based organizations and support networks that exist, and the high-level of poverty in New York, the state has the potential to become a leader in creating a framework of how states should build support systems for unaccompanied homeless youth to access and succeed in college.

Governor Cuomo should initiate the policy process to develop a law requiring a homeless liaison at every brick-and-mortar college and university in the state, to ensure that all former McKinney-Vento students are supported during their transition into college and throughout their tenure until graduation. The homeless liaison would be the first point of contact for professionals working with these young people and for the students who experience, or who are at risk of experiencing, homelessness while at college. The liaison would also be charged with coordinating all needed services. In addition, the liaison would be responsible for tracking and reporting all relevant data to help inform future policy regarding homeless college students and develop greater support services.

This kind of support and data-gathering could potentially exist without legislation. However, this issue is a prime example of where the state could do it better and more comprehensibly. With legislative protections and teeth to ensure sustainable and uniformed support is given, as well as appropriate resources for service delivery, training, technology, data collection, and future statewide policy initiatives, the liaisons will be able to provide better support to UHY in college. A statewide policy setting up liaisons would establish an infrastructure that can be used to easily implement future policy.

As economic inequality and homelessness rates remain high, and college attainment continues to be so crucial, it’s critical that New York take action to protect our most at-need college students to ensure that those who are pursuing their dreams don’t slip through the cracks.

Kevin Stump is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Leadership Director.

 

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