Why Would a Kid With ‘free Tuition’ Drop Out of School? Hint, Success Takes a Little More

If free college for all were truly a simple path to prosperity for the country or even a broad number of individual Americans, the several Democratic presidential contenders offering just that might be onto something. But as these plans have been kicked around on the campaign trail, the underlying assumption that offering free stuff really is a smart way to run an economy will never sit right with us. Beyond the fact that someone has to pay for any giveaway, what’s been missing is any debate about the work that is needed to succeed even if tuition falls away as an issue.Now, thankfully, some of that debate is creeping into the national debate. And this is putting real numbers into the discussion that should give us pause. The nonprofit W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan recently took a look at a free-tuition initiative launched in Kalamazoo 13 years ago. And, as profiled in The Wall Street Journal recently, that initiative hasn’t worked out as well as anyone should have hoped. The percentage of students in this initiative who finished high school and earned a college degree or certificate between 2006 and 2012 is just a few percentage points better than before the program’s inception. And the percentage of black students earning college credentials was just 23% -- virtually flat -- despite a major increase in African-American enrollment.Therein lies the fallacy of plans to make public colleges and universities free. In the end, success requires a tremendous amount of work. Developing in-depth analytical abilities as well as creating opportunities to build meaningful careers takes intellectual rigor, dedication, introspection and, we dare say, a little courage to jump off into the world. It also requires building a network of people to help you, overcoming family and peer pressure and more. Tuition is just the most visible obstacle. But unless these other factors are addressed, success at college and beyond will likely elude even those students offered free tuition.   Continue reading...

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