Community college would be tuition-free for two years for most Oregon high school graduates, under a proposal by Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, reports the Statesman-Journal.
“There are thousands of kids who come out of our schools that don’t go on to higher education, and that’s just not a viable path into the middle class,” said Hass, who is the chairman of the Senate Education & Workforce Development Committee.
Preliminary estimates show that funding tuition could cost about $250 million if 31,962 high school graduates attended an Oregon community college full time for two years. Average cost for a credit at a state community college is an estimated $85.94.
High school graduates would need a 2.0 grade point average to qualify.
It’s not clear how Oregon would fund the idea, but Hass says the state will save money in the long run if more young people are educated.
Elizabeth Cox Brand, the director of communications and research at the state department of Community Colleges & Workforce Development, called the state’s community colleges the “heart and soul” of Oregon’s “40-40-20” goal.
The goal is that 40 percent of adults will earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40 percent earn an associate’s degree or post-secondary credential and the remaining 20 percent earn a high school diploma or equivalent. By 2025, that would mean all Oregonians would earn at least a high school diploma.
Gov. John Kitzhaber’s education policy advisor, Ben Cannon, said the governor supports the idea of funding community college tuition for high school graduates. “What’s very clear is that the combination of rising tuition, fees, and cost of living has meant that too few Oregon school students see post-secondary education as a viable option,” he said.
Going a step behind dual enrollment, high schools and community colleges are combining a “fifth year” of high school with the first year of college, reports Community College Times.
In Oregon, nearly 200 high school students will spend a fifth year earning an advanced high school diploma while attending and earning credits at Klamath Community College (KCC). Since these students are still considered to be enrolled in high school, their tuition, fees and textbooks for their first year at KCC are covered by the state’s funding to K-12 school districts.
The students will attend KCC as a cohort and take a college success course together. If they complete the year, they’ll earn an advanced high school diploma and as many as 39 college credits — for free. They’ll be able to continue at KCC, transfer to another college or enter the workforce.
Colorado’s Ascent program lets high school students delay graduation for a year while they attend a community college; the cost is covered by the state’s K-12 funding.
Community College of Aurora (CCA) has close to 100 Ascent students and 3,000 dual enrollment students, said Elena Sandoval-Lucero, dean of student success. To qualify for Ascent, students must complete at least 12 dual-enrollment credits before 12th grade and be ready to start in college-level courses. Some will be able to earn an associate degree in their “fifth year,” said Sandoval-Lucero.
High school educators hope fifth-year programs will encourage low-income students to start college at no cost and keep on going.
Under Oregon’s Pay It Forward, Pay It Back plan, students would pay no tuition at state universities – if they agree to pay 3 percent of their earnings for 24 years. Community college students would pay 1.5 percent. The bill tells a state commission to study how to make the idea work. A pilot plan is possible in 2015.
Be wary of no-money-down offers, warns Inside Higher Ed.
It won’t work, argues Sara Goldrick-Rab on Education Optimists. Tuition at the University of Oregon is $9,830 a year, but students would have to pay another $14,000 for room, board, books and supplies. So even those who postpone tuition will have to borrow to pay college costs. Lower-income students still face “sticker shock” that may dissuade them from enrolling.
While Pay It Forward is supposed to be self-sustaining — eventually — the estimates are off, writes Goldrick-Rab. Students will earn less than projected and will resist a 24-year “mortage” on their education. Collecting will require using the IRS.
Students who plan careers in medicine, law, business and engineering will do much better paying the tuition up front, leaving Pay It Forward to collect only from low-paid graduates and dropouts.
It’s a terrible idea, writes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. Advocates say Oregon will need to spend $9 billion over the next 24 years to cover the costs, but that assumes students in high-earning majors won’t opt out. If they know math, they will. Furthermore, “only half of Oregon public college students finish a B.A. within six years.” Dropouts are expected to pay too for whatever years of free tuition they received, but they earn far less and will pay less. “The whole idea could turn into a financial albatross for taxpayers” or a nightmare for former students.
Only 61 percent of Oregon high school graduates in the class of 2011 were enrolled in college by fall, 2012, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. That’s below the national average of 68 percent and far below Oregon’s goal, which calls for 40 percent of young people to earn a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent to earn an associate degree.
In some districts and high schools, students are doing much better than expected, reports the Oregonian.
For example, with 73 percent of students from low-income families, the David Douglas school district in east Portland sends 62 percent of graduates to college, far more than the average for districts with similar demographics. Counselors explain that college is almost always necessary to qualify for a career, said head counselor Miki Johnson.
Two thirds of David Douglas students take Mount Hood Community College courses, taught by high school teachers who hold Mount Hood credentials. The average graduate has earned 12 college credits. Most dual enrollment students go on to college, said Tifini Roberts, who coordinates the program. ”Being exposed to college, taking a college class and passing it, is a huge confidence booster.”
Jefferson High, a small school with primarily low-income, black students, is across the street from Portland Community College. The college hired a counselor to help Jefferson students get into the right college classes and reach their goals. The high school sends 79 percent of its students to college.
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would require college coursework as a condition of graduating from high school. The move would increase the number of students going to college, make their degrees more affordable and encourage students not considering college to continue in higher education, said Sen. Mark Hass, a Beaverton Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor.
Oregon students must pass 24 high school classes to earn a diploma. In its current form, Senate Bill 222 would require six of those classes earn college credit, starting with the class of 2020. It promises funding — how much is unstated — to train high school teachers to teach college-level courses.
It’s nice to know Oregon students are so accomplished that all can be expected to complete high school work in three years and move on to college work.
A North Carolina bill backed by Gov. Pat McCrory would create a “career ready” diploma in addition to a “college ready” diploma. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is headed for the House. “Career and technical teacher licensing requirements also would be revised to help develop more teachers in those fields,” reports AP.