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Jodie Adams Kirshner in the Boston Globe

Students Need More Than Just the Promise of Free Tuition

+ Jodie Adams Kirshner

In the Boston Globe, Research Professor Jodie Adams Kirshner has an op-ed, “Low-Income Students Need Bold Solutions to Get to—and Through—College.” In assessing the problem, she writes:

My investigation of low-income students suggests limitations of the Promise model for increasing economic mobility. While for some students, tuition-free community college forms an important component of the access and affordability puzzle, it does not offer a cure-all. Too often, college counselors at schools with high-poverty rates among students warehouse those students in Promise programs irrespective of students’ goals, decreasing access to a bachelor’s degree increasingly essential for a true shot at sustained higher earnings.

Adams Kirshner then offers several solutions:

Clearly students need more than just the promise of free tuition. Students and their families need help understanding the costs and benefits of attending various postsecondary institutions and the financing options available. College counselors must teach students about returns on college competitiveness and encourage applications to safety, match, and reach schools. Currently, students cannot learn how much federal grant aid they will receive until after they decide to apply to college, and low-income students complete the FAFSA at low rates. Instead, the federal government could provide financial aid directly to institutions that pledged to drop tuition. “Free college” would truly become “free college,” which students could access in a more seamless way. Or the FAFSA and Promise program applications could be unified: If students submitted a single application, duplications could be reduced. Above all, high schools must gain resources to offer high-level courses that prepare students to meet college expectations and train students in the skills for using campus supports.

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