54. Free Public College

6 Apr

Recently, there have been proposals of a free (or low-cost) college education system. Having the government support the costs of a traditional college would be far too expensive. However, with some restructuring and innovations, three or four years of quality education and a degree could be provided for motivated high school graduates.  Different ways of developing a free college system could be explored in several localities and then generally implemented in the best way.

The goal of a public college would be to make the participant an “educated” person. This person would have reasoning and logic skills, could further self-educate, could research and fact find, would have good reading, writing and speaking skills, might acquire some specialized work skills, and would have a good understanding of the world that he/she lives in.  If the student has high grades in public college and is motivated, he/she would be eligible to enter a graduate or professional school. Transcripts of course-work and grades would be available, the same as traditional universities. Every public college would need to have USDE-recognized accreditation.

Here are some ideas that could be used in the first trials.

1. The public college could be an add-on to high schools. Administrators and space could be shared, with huge savings in cost. For example, high school ends at 2:30pm and college takes over for the late afternoon and evening.

2. The overall program would be federally administered, but state and/or local agencies would also participate. Nearby traditional universities might also provide help. Although some would consider free college a competition, most well-educated people are quite sympathetic to more education for the general population.

3. The public college would be focused on education and would not include research, sports, and other social programs, unless they were cost-free or paid for by students or contributions. Only courses in traditional subjects, such as mathematics, anthropology, physics, chemistry, computer science, economics, biology, business, history, etc. would be provided. Very specialized new departments such as found in some universities would not be included. To save money, art and music courses could be eliminated and would only be available from private institutions.

4. A small number of well-credentialed professors would be in charge of the courses. Most of the actual teaching would be done by advanced graduate students from nearby universities. Private universities also use graduate students for much of the teaching. The professors would provide some lectures. Volunteers from industry and elsewhere could provide additional lectures.

5. Duration. There would be three or four years of public college education. A student could choose an ordinary four years or a condensed three-year program by taking courses in the summer. An alternative would be the first two years tuition free and a low cost for the next two years. I have no special ideas at this time, about graduate school.

6. Instead of requiring students to pay for expensive textbooks, material for study could be a collection of Internet sites. Resources such as Khan Academy and Internet-published college lectures could be used without cost. I have logged thousands of hours of research using the Internet and am certain there is much more than enough free information to provide a complete four-year college education in every traditional subject. Existing “Federal work-study” programs would also help support the students.

7. There would be the usual regular testing in classrooms, administered by the professors and/or advanced graduate students.  Course grades would be recorded in the usual college transcripts, which would be available to potential employers.

The first trial of this low-cost Public College should be located next to a large state university. This would provide a supply of advanced graduate students for help with teaching, and if desired, students could take specialty courses as special students at the university. A source of administrators and professors might be retired university staff, that would help out at little or no cost. Recent Ph.D’s that have not immediately found jobs could spend a year or two teaching at the Public College — similar to the Peace Corps concept. Many foundations interested in improving education, would probably want to provide grants for this endeavor. There are brilliant young people that want to make contributions that benefit the world (and are not overly interested in wealth), that could start a project like this. To get this rolling, location in a desirable vacation area would be a good way to attract staff.

One Response to “54. Free Public College”

  1. Shrey Srivastava April 6, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks for this blog post regarding free public college; I really enjoyed it and am definitely recommending this blog to my friends and family. I’m a 15 year old with a blog on finance and economics at shreysfinanceblog.com, and would really appreciate it if you could read and comment on some of my articles, and perhaps follow, reblog and share some of my posts on social media. Thanks again for this fantastic post.

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