How the promise of free college doesn’t always help low-income students

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced proudly in August that 100,000 people had applied for her state’s free college program, Michigan Reconnect.

But there’s a hitch. Most statewide programs, including Michigan’s, don’t necessarily help the lowest-income students finish or pay for college.

Many cover only the tuition that is still outstanding after federal aid is used up. These are called “last-dollar” free college programs. Since federal aid to the lowest-income students — usually in the form of Pell Grants — almost always covers the full cost of community college tuition, low-income students don’t benefit, while higher-income students do.

More from The Hechinger Report.


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