With jobs in the U.S. increasingly requiring postsecondary credentials and degrees, more than half of the states have identified goals to increase postsecondary completion and attainment rates for students. While these goals can help states get closer to meeting workforce needs, research shows that focusing efforts strictly on traditionally-aged students will not allow states to meet their attainment goals. In order to increase postsecondary enrollment, some states have adopted free community college policies, but these policies often exclude eligibility of adult students.

This new policy report from Education Commission of the States, Free Community College: An approach to increase adult student success in postsecondary education, discusses the growing interest in free community college policies across state legislatures, addresses the limited potential of current policies to help states reach their completion and attainment goals and offers a new, inclusive framework for including adult students in free community college policies.

“Increasing postsecondary enrollment of adult students in the 25 to 64-year-old age group is a key step in helping not only individual states meet their completion and attainment goals, but also for the U.S. to create the educated workforce required for the 21st century economy,” said Sarah Pingel, a policy analyst at Education Commission of the States. “This report offers a new policy framework that focuses on the inclusion of adult students for states that are considering offering free community college or redesigning existing policies.”

Some key takeaways from this report:

  • To date, 23 states have considered 47 pieces of legislation related to free college.
  • Zero states will realistically reach attainment imperatives without the participation of adult students in higher education.
  • The majority of state proposals related to free college focus only on traditionally-aged students- leaving out adults.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Communications Director Amy Skinner at askinner@ecs.org or (303) 299.3609.

Tweet this ECS report!

  • New @edcommission: Free Community College: An approach to increase adult student success in postsecondary education bit.ly/2fWps7x
  • 23 states have considered 47 pieces of legislation related to free college. More from @edcommission bit.ly/2fWps7x #highered
  • Many state #freecollege proposals focus on traditionally-aged students, leaving out adults @edcommission bit.ly/2fWps7x #highered

Related ECS resources that you will find useful:

State Financial Aid: Applying redesign principles through state engagement
This report shares lessons learned from Education Commission of the States’ technical assistance work with several states on redesigning state financial aid to craft more strategic approaches to financial aid policy design and implementation. This is an aspect of the ongoing state financial aid redesign work supported by USA Funds.

50-State Policy Database on State Financial Aid
This 50-state policy database on state financial aid provides a comprehensive look at the 100 largest state-funded financial aid programs across the country. This resource is intended to inform discussions surrounding current program design, innovative models already in practice in the states and assist states in identifying peer programs. The 50-state financial aid data also reveals opportunities for states to rethink aid programs in light of contemporary students.


 PUBLISHED: November 17, 2016

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