UW-Madison School of Education - In the Media

School of Education "In the Media"

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New York Times ​examines free college plan first proposed by UW’s Kendall, Goldrick-Rab

June 01, 2017

A recent New York Times report ​puts the spotlight on a free college tuition plan first proposed, in part, by UW-Madison’s Nancy Kendall.

The New York Times article is headlined, “Should Students Get ‘Grades 13 and 14’ Free of Charge?”

Nancy Kendall
Kendall
The report begins: “Free college is a lovely, sensible notion — but countries seem capable of embracing it only when enough of their top earners pay 50 percent or more of their income in taxes. In the United States, New York is the sole state to have taken the step of offering to cover tuition at all its public colleges and universities. And even this new benefit, the Excelsior Scholarship, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law last month, helps only a small fraction of the state’s residents — households earning less than $125,000 that are not already covered by financial aid — and their grants convert into loans unless graduates both live and work in the state for as many years as they benefited from the program. It also does not cover living costs.”

This New York Times explains how both Sara Goldrick-Rab and Kendall -- an associate professor of Educational Policy Studies with UW-Madison's School of Education –- first laid out a free-college idea in a 2014 paper. Goldrick-Rab, now at Temple University, worked with Kendall at UW-Madison during that time.

“If you complete a high-school degree,” Goldrick-Rab and Kendall proposed in their paper, “you can obtain a 13th and 14th year of education for free in exchange for a modest amount of work while attending school.”

The Times explained how they “identified large pools of federal dollars allocated to higher education that could be tapped to pay for their plan. This money includes the $5 billion in Pell grants that ended up in the coffers of for-profit colleges during the 2015-16 academic year and another $5 billion that went to private colleges and universities, which Goldrick-Rab argues can use their endowments and other scholarship funds to offset lost federal dollars.”

The Times continues:  “Under Goldrick-Rab and Kendall’s plan, municipalities and states are responsible for covering living expenses ‘equivalent to 15 hours of work a week paid at the living wage in the region’ — more than $10,000 a year in places like New York with a high cost of living. That’s probably a pie-in-the-sky prescription, but Goldrick-Rab points to the possibility of public-private partnerships. The National School Lunch Program already helps feed kids through the 12th grade. Why not expand it to cover students in their first two years of college? Goldrick-Rab and Kendall also call for a significant scaling up of the Federal Work-Study program to help students cover their expenses.”

The Times article concludes: “Two years of free college is not a panacea. Not everyone is cut out for it, and the barriers to success often go beyond the time needed to study. Yet making the 13th and 14th years of schooling more accessible, as Goldrick-Rab and Kendall propose, would give more people hope, at least, in an economy that now pretty much requires skills well beyond the ones taught in high school.”

To learn much more about this nuanced topic which has become a hot-button issue, make sure and check out the entire New York Times report here.

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