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Friday, May 17, 2019

Notations On Our World (Special Friday Edition): On The Value of Education

This week saw the anniversary of another milestone in the history of America as the crucial Brown vs. Board of Education was decided.    Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote to Chief Justice Warren on it which we hereby present as a tribute to that day in 1954 when this major decision was made.   We also captured a note from the New York Times on the continued challenges of Education today exemplified by moves by communities such as Chicago to have free Community Colleges.     We view Education as the salvation and the opportunity for the future and our mission here in our Education Property will continue to help deliberate and to show case the trends...



The New York Times' David Leaonard Reflected upon it earlier this week: 

The version of “free college” that I find most promising is free community college.
Eliminating tuition at two-year colleges would send a message that Americans are supposed to continue their education beyond high school. It would also avoid a major weakness of the free four-year college plans that some Democrats are now pushing — namely, giving a big handout to upper-middle-class families, most of whom don’t send their children to community colleges.
Several places around the country have started free community-college programs, the most prominent being Tennessee (under a Republican governor) and Chicago (under a Democratic mayor). Yesterday, that mayor — Rahm Emanuel, who leaves office later this month — announced he was expanding the program to graduates of 12 Catholic high schools; it had previously applied only to public-school graduates. It’s a good move, because Catholic schools have long helped launch working-class Americans, and not just Catholics, into the middle class.
“Twelfth grade can’t be the norm,” Emanuel told me. “You’ve got to change the goal line. K through high school was the 20th century. Pre-K to college is the 21st century.”
Still, I have one big worry about free community-college programs, and I wanted to use the latest news as a reason to look at how well Chicago and Tennessee have been dealing with it. The answer is mostly encouraging.
More clarity, more grads
Community colleges can be inspiring places. They’re often filled with people who are trying to overcome big challenges — including lower-income students, war veterans, laid-off workers, students with disabilities and victims of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, the colleges also tend to be starved of resources, as Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation has pointed out. Many have shockingly low graduation rates.
My worry about free community-college programs is that they will lead more students to enroll but not necessarily graduate. The programs could potentially even lead to a drop in the total number of college graduates, if students began choosing community colleges over four-year colleges but then failed to finish.
So I asked officials in both Chicago and Tennessee what’s happened to their enrollment and graduation numbers since starting their programs.
The first piece of good news is that, as intended, enrollment has risen. More than 64 percent of Chicago’s public high-school graduates enroll in a college — for two- or four-year degrees — up from 54 percent in 2010, before the program started. In Tennessee, the share of high-school graduates going to college jumped to 64 percent in 2015, the first year of its program, from 58 percent the previous year. It has since remained between 63 percent and 64 percent.
These increases are notable, because even before these programs began, federal financial aid covered community-college tuition for many students, as Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute (a skeptic of free tuition) often points out.
“Could a low-income student have gone to community college tuition-free before?” Mike Krause, who runs the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said to me. “Absolutely. But they didn’t know that.” He added: “We have managed to bring clarity to a message that was in the past very complicated.”
The second piece of good news is that graduation numbers have also risen. They’ve done so because both Tennessee and Chicago have paired free tuition with a new push to reduce dropout rates.
Tennessee has signed up 9,000 volunteer mentors per year to work with students, Krause said, and to qualify for free tuition, students must take a full load of classes. Chicago has also taken steps to help students stay in school and graduate.
The results: In Tennessee, the three-year community-college graduation rate has risen to 23 percent from 14 percent. In Chicago, the graduation rate has risen to 24 percent from 11 percent. Many more Chicago community-college students are also transferring to four-year colleges.
Obviously, those graduation rates remain far too low. There is still a lot of work to do, including better funding for the colleges and more accountability for those that don’t reduce their dropout rates. And free tuition still doesn’t cover most living expenses, like food and lodging.
But on the most basic question of whether the programs in Tennessee and Chicago are working, I’d say the answer is yes.

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