Make community college a priority

Daily Editorial Board

Access to education and college affordability have been important issues during the election process so far. Many people critical of the rising costs of universities have argued for a dramatic decline in tuition for state schools.
In an era when college debt is at an all-time high, national and local policymakers have proposed various solutions to the problem. But last year, President Barack Obama actually proposed one of the most promising solutions — a free community college initiative. 
Community colleges offer unique opportunities for students without the high costs of public and private universities. Making community colleges and technical schools free of charge would provide quality education for those who can’t afford to attend a four-year institution. 
Recently, the San Diego Community College District started a pilot program which implements free community college for all students. Last month, legislators in Maryland debated whether to provide state and local funds to help students attend community colleges. And in May, Minnesota started a pilot program aimed at waiving community college costs for 1,600 students. 
By eliminating tuition for community colleges, we could help improve a system whose schools suffer from high dropout rates and a great number of student loan defaults.
We encourage the Minnesota Legislature to expand the current pilot program to more community colleges around the state. We also urge other local legislators to explore community colleges as a viable means to increase the accessibility of higher education.