Potential Grows for Free Community College

by Anika Mittu ’19

 Although the 2016 Presidential election culminated over a year ago, the idea that Hillary Clinton adopted from Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign of eliminating tuition for community colleges has not been forgotten. Due to Republican dominance in the federal government, free community college has not been considered on a national scale, causing local governments and universities to draw inspiration from Clinton’s aspirations and take action.

 Within the state of Maryland, gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous continues to advocate for tuition-free community college. Jealous, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), highlights the importance of free community college and quality healthcare for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds within his campaign. Bernie Sanders endorsed Jealous due to the striking similarities between Jealous’ campaign and Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, providing Jealous with media attention well ahead of the 2018 gubernatorial election.

 At the local level, Baltimore has recently made monumental efforts in providing free education to residents. On August 9, Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh announced a program that will grant free tuition at Baltimore City Community College to graduates of the Baltimore City Public School system. Pugh believes her plan also will reduce crime in Baltimore, as youth will become engaged in pursuing an education rather than turning to crime as a form of entertainment and monetary gain.

 Just a week after Pugh’s announcement, Coppin State University in Baltimore introduced its plan to eliminate tuition costs for graduates of city public high schools who graduate from Baltimore City Community College with an associate’s degree. Combined with Pugh’s program, eligible students could attain a bachelor’s degree from Coppin without paying a cent of tuition.

 However, some individuals believe that Pugh’s program unfairly excludes numerous Baltimore students. “Offer your free college to all graduating seniors if their parents are city taxpayers whether they attended public, private or parochial high schools,” urged one letter to the editor published in The Baltimore Sun. The letter emphasized that the city saves around $16,000 for each student who receives an education from institutions other than Baltimore City Public Schools. Consequently, Baltimore should return the money saved to these students by including them in Pugh’s program.

 Nevertheless, many members of the City Council support Pugh’s decision, with the belief that it has already instilled a sense of optimism in Baltimore’s underprivileged residents. “I respect the mayor for bringing a thoughtful new idea to the table. We should push for even more,” stated City Councilman Zeke Cohen, chairman of the council’s education committee.