Equitable Free College
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"Free college" has become a major policy discussion in states and at the federal level. Generally, states have implemented "free college" programs that cover the full cost of tuition and fees at a public, in-state, two-year (and, in a some cases, a four-year) institution.

States who wish to pursue this type of free college program for their residents in absence of a federal-state partnership should design the programs using the following principles.

NCAN recommends that states:

  • Implement a first-dollar program that covers all tuition and fees before applying federal or other state grant aid.
  • Allow for federal need-based aid (including the Pell Grant) and state need-based aid programs beyond “free” college to cover non-tuition and fee expenses included in the full cost of attendance.
  • Support the participation of low- and middle-income students by retaining a need-based element in the participation requirements.
  • Include both associate and bachelor’s degrees.
  • Include both dependent and independent students of any age.
  • Include both full-time and half-time students.
  • Set a lifetime eligibility limit no shorter than 150% of the degree length.

Equitable free college resources:

National Conference of State Legislatures

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators