A new report from Education Reform Now asserts that the effectiveness of states’ college promise and debt-free college plans should be measured against five key questions. Making Promises: Designing College Promise Plans Worth Keeping explains that as state policymakers explore different options for college affordability plans, it’s crucial to recognize the relationship between college affordability and college completion.
According to the report, college affordability is a function of time-to-degree, so helping students complete college on time can cut college costs by 20 to 33 percent. The report’s five central questions are framed around factors that strongly affect college completion, including academic preparation at the secondary school level, college selection, full-time enrollment, and colleges’ efforts to support completion. The authors recommend that limited resources for college affordability should be leveraged against these influences and targeted where need is greatest.
The report particularly emphasizes the benefit of affordability plans that not only affect financial aid, but also leverage improvements in high school academic preparation. High school curricular rigor is highlighted as the single greatest influence on later college completion. Currently, one in four rising college freshmen is placed in at least one remedial course, and ends up finishing college nearly one year later on average–in addition to facing a much higher risk of dropping out entirely. According to the report:
A high-quality college promise plan needs to support students before they enter college so they are prepared…otherwise, those plans will prove a false and expensive promise for students, families, and taxpayers.