Almost half the states in the U.S. offer tuition-free college in one form or another.
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College in America can be very expensive. One year of tuition at a public American university will run you around $10,000 — if you’re an in-state student. (Just for some perspective, one year at a public college in Japan is about $6,000.) And then there are private U.S. colleges, which cost an average of $35,260 per year.
Some states have been working to make public college more affordable. Or better yet, they’ve been working to make public college free. The broader thinking, first brought under serious consideration during the Obama administration, is that having a college degree is required for many jobs today. In some professions, it’s as crucial as a high school education. Education advocates propose that it should be available to all students who want to go to college, not just students who can afford it.
New York became the first state to make four-year colleges free. Eligible students won’t have to pay for city or state colleges (those with a household income more than $125,000 a year are ineligible). San Francisco has made their city college free to qualifying students, Tennessee is offering free tuition at community colleges and technical schools, and Rhode Island is offering free tuition at community college. There are, of course, a few stipulations that vary from state-to-state. For example, to qualify in Rhode Island, you have to be a recent high school graduate, and students must live, work, or continue their education in state after completing community college.
As of July 2017, 24 states offer tuition-free college in some capacity. That’s a huge amount of progress in a very short timeframe. And hopefully, initiatives will just keep growing.