Can free community college improve state economies?

Paint booths
Student Ethan Merseth preps a vehicle for painting at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn. Thursday, March 8, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced a proposal this month to make community college in the state free.

Haslam said he plans to use excess money from the state's lottery to create a $300 million endowment.

"Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless," he said.

The announcement came as other states are looking at measures to drive students toward community college as a way to guarantee residents get some level of education beyond a high school degree, or provide a cheaper alternative to the first two years of a post-secondary education.

On The Daily Circuit, we discuss the benefits of community college. Does making them more accessible keep students from moving to four-year programs? We look at the state of community colleges in America and ask how they fit into our education system.

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