By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The President Pro Tem for the Alabama State Board of Education Mary Scott Hunter (R) was recently asked to contribute her opinion to a discussion at wallethub.com on whether or not college should be free.
Hunter wrote, “While I don’t believe that college should be free, I do believe that state leaders would be wise to make it very affordable for their citizens. The fact is an educated citizenry is the number one most important factor in a state’s economic viability. The easiest way for policymakers to address this problem within their state is to look hard at their community college systems.”
Hunter said that courses in Community colleges in Alabama, “Cost a quarter of our state’s flagship university courses.” “The community colleges are the place we can look to solve the problem of affordability for students that desperately need a close-to-home affordable option.”
Hunter wrote that, “Right now, Alabama’s community colleges cost $125 or so per credit hour. That may sound like a bargain as compared to the cost of a flagship university, but it’s still beyond the reach of many of our citizens to self-fund.”
Hunter said that, “College is an investment. Making it free risks cheapening it. Making it attainable is good policy. State policy makers who are interested in making real progress should enter into agreements with their community college systems to increase appropriations in exchange for commensurate reductions in tuition and fees.”
Democratic candidate for President US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) made an unexpected deep primary run promising free college. Whether college or the first two years of college or simply two year colleges and trades schools should be free is very much on the agenda for debate going forward.
Another issue is what kind of post-secondary education do we need? 94 million Americans are outside of the labor market; but employers routinely tell us that there is a shortage of available workers with career tech training. Meanwhile we have a glut of people with liberal arts degrees, many of them underemployed.
To read Mary Scott Hunter’s full column:
Mary Scott Hunter represents District 8 on the Alabama School Board, which includes Limestone, Madison, Jackson, and Etowah Counties.