Free community college, a key proposal from President Biden’s efforts to “build back better,” emerged as one of the first casualties of Congressional negotiations to pass Biden’s economic agenda late last month. But investing in community colleges – which serve as a “major gateway to higher education and economic mobility for low-income and minority students” and remain a key priority for the Biden Administration – can be accomplished with existing, less-costly alternatives, write President Thomas Bailey and Thomas Brock in a recent op-ed published in The Washington Post.
“A relatively modest federal investment can go a long way toward enabling students to complete their studies and enter the workforce,” wrote Bailey and Brock, both of whom specialize in community college and student pathway research at TC’s Community College Research Center, on the eve of the Biden administration’s announcement of the framework for the Build Back Better Act. “States and community colleges are ready and able to meet this challenge — and at lower cost than the $45 billion Congress proposed for free community college.”
Next steps for empowering a key component of the country’s higher education system include implementing the Guided Pathways model developed under Bailey's leadership as the founding director of the CCRC. Adopted by more than 400 community colleges, Guided Pathways offer a comprehensive framework for student achievement and success in higher education and beyond.
"These reforms might lack the appeal of free community college, but they also might ultimately pay off more for students and society," Bailey and Brock write. "We have the evidence, and states and colleges are poised to make the changes needed. Now is the time for Congress to make the investment."