Tuition-free community college fails to come to fruition again



Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

The idea of free-tuition colleges in the United States appears to be nothing but a  dream. Both progressive members of congress and congressional officials said that two years of community college would not make it to the final package of key progressive initiatives.

The shattered dream of tuition-free college further proves how education is less of a priority for the United States. It is a shame that elected officials would cut such a life-changing possibility such as tuition-free community college However, it’s not surprising.

Going against the idea of free college only fuels the mindset that college is not important anymore in the United States.

President Joe Biden hinted that the free community college program would be cut from the definitive version of the infrastructure bill. On the matter, United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona expressed his concerns about free community college being cut from the “Build Back Better agenda.”

“I’m worried that’s one of the things that is being looked at to be cut from the Build Back Better agenda,” Cardona said to Politico. “That would be a shame, because we’re so close to leveling the playing field for so many students.”

“[…]leveling the playing field…” is exactly what free college, especially community college, would do for many people of color. Young people are often taught that the road to success in the United States lies within proper education, but if they cannot afford it, they are forced to drop out before graduation.

Many people look at college as a socio-economic status symbol, and yet it is so much more than that. A young person that attends college could be given a life-changing experience of meeting new people and receiving an education beyond the K-12 school system.

A small glimmer of hope for free community college in the far future can be found in advocacy through local politics. If the federal government will not advocate for the idea then states must band together to fight for the policy to become a reality.

New Yorkers can think of prominent figures like former Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales. She ran her campaign on the idea of making The City University of New York a free public institution and outlined a plan for it.

She led a local army against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both of whom have sought funding cuts for CUNY.

On a federal level, everyday voters who champion for the idea of free college can thank leaders like First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who still works as a community college professor and Sen. Bernie Sanders who made the idea of free college mainstream.

The argument that tuition-free college is impossible is weak because there is historical evidence of when college in the United States was free. At one point in time, CUNY had free tuition when it was founded in 1847, which continued until 1976.

Although an increase for Pell Grants for low-income students, money for college completion and vocational programs will seemingly be kept in the bill, the loss of free community college will be a major setback for college students, especially  when college enrollment has hit an all-time low.

Fewer students across the nation returned to school post- COVID-19, causing undergraduate enrollment to decrease another 3.2% from the previous year, according to a report from CNBC.

“Enrollments are not getting better; they’re still getting worse,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said. “Far from filling the hole of last year’s enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper.”

One effect of not pushing for free community college is students battling financial burdens.  The lack of advocacy for the agenda destroys the dream of free college in the United States, while continuing  to uplift the narrative that college is not necessary to succeed.