Dr. Hans Andrews is Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership at Olney Central College, Illinois. He was President of Olney Central College, Dean of Instruction at Illinois Valley Community College, and Vice President of Community and Student Services at Kellogg Community College. He also taught business courses and worked as a counselor in two secondary schools in Michigan.
There is a need for community and technical colleges across the United States and numerous other countries to consider the possibility and benefits of expanding ‘tuition waivers’ for many potential students. This proposal comes at a time colleges across the world are experiencing enrollment declines, some due to the two plus years of the pandemic.
Some of these reasons tuition waivers should not hurt the financing of these colleges follows:
- Local college district taxes to the colleges, where they are legislated, stay the same with or without these additional students whom would receive tuition waivers.
- Most states pay each college a fixed amount for each credit hour it generates from its enrolled students.
- Some classes may remain, let’s say, at 12, 15, 18, 24, without these tuition waived students. With these students classes could be increased, for example, from 2 to 15 additional students.
- These tuition waivers would only be utilized for those students who have the financial need to attend.
- Tuition waivers are unlike the recent proposals in the United States for ‘free tuition’ for all community college students whether or not they have enough available funds of their own to pay for their own education. This proposal has failed to pass at this time.
Many of the college’s budget costs are pretty well ‘fixed’ at the same amount whether you have 15 or 25 student class size averages.
The fairly fixed areas of a college budget includes heating, electrical, air conditioning, janitorial services, student support services, book store, library, parking lot sizes, administrator, faculty, and information technology (IT) costs.
Imagining the human impacts of the tuition waivers
Let us suppose that you were to inherit a community college with around 1,050 students, as this author did, and expanded the ‘tuition waiver’ proposal mentioned here. Within five years we were able to expand enrollment of the college to just over 1,800 students enrolled. Assume now that your college, Utilizing tuition waivers was added to a much more robust outreach to the surrounding communities to also help in expanding the college’s enrollments. Next, look at what we were able to accomplish over these few years:
- We were able to give many persons living at a poverty level an opportunity to gain skills that helped them enter or re-enter the work force.
- The children and grandchildren of these tuition waiver students now had a much better chance of completing secondary school knowing that their parents had improved their lives through more education.
- Hundreds of more students were now be referred by area secondary school teachers and counselors, social agencies, placement bureaus, churches, and federal grant funding sources. Some of the grant directors of the college no longer had to consider turning away persons who had applied for the grant but the funds were running out. The Dislocated Homemaker grant was one that benefitted greatly from this approach using tuition waivers.
- Poverty levels can be expected to go down as more persons are now able to become educated in a trade, apprenticeship, vocational skill, and/or become teacher aides and eventually, possibly, teachers in their home districts.
- My community college was able to expand programs in music, art, welding, auto service, auto body collision, computer science, nursing assistance, licensed practical and licensed registered nursing, and numerous other programs.
In small to medium colleges some of these programs barely have enough students presently to continue, i.e., music, languages, etc.
These expanding tuition waivers will be able to produce a greater number of graduates of one- and/or two-year career programs and some baccalaureate degree programs needed within the college districts and in a wider area of need within the states.
A GROWING FUTURE/PRESENT NEED:
This author has written extensively on the need to expand community college offerings to now include the ability to offer Baccalaureate Degrees in Education. There is not a state in the United States and many other counties at this time that does not have major concerns about their pressing areas of teacher shortages.
In numerous countries it has become so bad that the word ‘Crisis’ is appearing. There is a relatively new national association in the U.S. that offers to assist community colleges to design and produce Baccalaureate Degrees in numerous areas of their curriculum. It is the Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA).
Bachelor of Science Degrees in Nursing (BSN) have been successful in the U.S. in community colleges where they were placed. In the state of Illinois, one year ago, a state legislator from the Chicago area pushed through many committees and gained the approval for her states’ community colleges to now offer a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Community Colleges offer a ‘common sense option’ on Teacher Shortages
As one thinks ahead, there will be many potential ‘teacher candidates’ that will be forthcoming almost immediately in the community colleges. The idea of ‘expanding tuition waivers’ will be one of the most important contributions. It offers their governing boards, administrators and teachers an exceptional option to help bring the teaching workforce back to a level it needs to return. The need is now to have certified and competent teachers to once again fill every classroom for our K-12 students across the globe.
Expanding funding sources to help ‘future teacher’ candidates
Expanding the colleges’ ability to draw addition funds to their foundations to help these ‘teacher candidates’ the expenses for their books, computers, travel expenses, and other important expenditures will be most important. It should prove to be a very positive role for financial and banking institutions, local businesses and other industries, to play within their communities.
Many of these businesses have workers who will have students and/or spouses or other relatives who will be excited to enter a teaching degree program within 30 miles of their homes!
Expanding tuition-waivers can be a win-win for the local community colleges, universities, local K-12 school districts, regional superintendents, and, first and foremost, for the students coming up through the educational systems to become future teachers or well prepared in other career fields. Tuition waivers can help provide the stimulus to start many of these possibilities for students presently unable to take advantage of them due to family finances.