Community colleges have been much in the news since President Obama proposed free tuition for millions of students. This plan isn’t cheap and states will have to change their spending habits to reap the benefits of expanded community college for all. They’ll need to invest considerable sums to both match the President’s proposal, and reverse historic declines in state funding so that they have the capacity to serve millions of new students.
But why should states invest in community colleges instead of relying on for-profit schools to fill the gaps, as they have done for the past decade?
Community colleges train students for much lower tuition than for-profit schools. Students can get a comparable (or better) education for a fraction of the cost, leading to much lower rates of student debt. This justifies some measure of state investment, if only to keep the scourges of high debt burden and default from ruining the lives of local students.