College for all? CAP says ‘Yes’

The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently kicked off a “College For All” campaign, a plan to break down barriers to post-secondary enrollment by covering costs for higher education to ensure that students and their families can afford college. In a planned series of reports, CAP will also recommend funding and support models. Ideally, this plan will result in increased college enrollment and degree attainment for students from low-income and moderate-income families.

The primer for this series – Strengthening Our Economy Through College for All – was released last week, framing the proposal around President Obama’s proposal last month to make community college free for as many students as possible. CAP takes the goal to the next level by encouraging the federal government to allow students to attend public four-year colleges and universities tuition- and fee-free. This removes FAFSA completion from the equation for college enrollment at these schools, a paperwork nightmare that has stood in the way of many students’ college application processes. Rather, CAP proposes a system in which students repay their college tuition through their taxes, based on income.

As CAP sees it, the U.S. economy is continuing to demand higher levels of educational credentials and degrees. As the oft-cited Georgetown University’s Center of Education and the Workforce 2013 report found, by 2020, the U.S. is projected to have a shortfall of 5 million college-educated workers. That is not an easy equation to solve.

As CAP continues to roll out the College For All proposal, it will be interesting to see the federal government’s reaction, as well as avenues built for state and university systems to respond.