The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) commends President Obama’s continued focus on college access and affordability and his recognition that earning a postsecondary degree or credential is critical to achieving individual prosperity as well as enhancing America’s economic competitiveness.
While we are pleased that the president recognizes the role that America’s public colleges and universities play in providing affordable and high-quality educational opportunities, this community college initiative does not recognize that for a significant number of students seeking a college education, AASCU institutions are the only point of access in their communities.
A sweeping proposal like the free community college initiative will require a full analysis. A thorough examination must include whether such an allocation of limited federal financial resources focused on eliminating tuition at a subset of institutions for all students is the optimal strategy. It is important to note that low-income students face significant costs beyond tuition. Further, we must pay attention to the unintended consequences of federal price intervention on enrollment patterns and baccalaureate attainment. Finally, the proposed policy should be reviewed for its sustainability. Potentially this program could be in significant demand, which could drain federal and state resources (for those states that would choose to participate). This demand may well result in a rationing of available slots at community colleges or in diminished quality because of drastically reduced per-student expenditures.
AASCU is supportive of efforts to leverage federal resources to incentivize increased state investment in higher education, which is crucial to ensuring college affordability. Greater alignment of federal and state financing of higher education is the cornerstone of AASCU’s 2015 Public Policy Agenda .
AASCU and its 420 member institutions and systems look forward to being a partner in this discussion and to working with the Obama administration to ensure continued access to high quality and affordable college opportunities for all.
AASCU is a Washington-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.