Daily Video

June 11, 2021

Daily News Lesson: A debate over free community college


Directions: There are two videos that go with this lesson. Read the summaries, watch both videos and answer the discussion questions below. To read the transcript of the first video (above), click here. For the transcript of the second video, click here.

Summary: This week, two experts appeared on the NewsHour to argue for and against free community college. Seventeen states in the U.S. now offer free community college tuition, and existing programs cover tuition for many students. But President Joe Biden wants to make that happen nationwide. We’ll explore both sides of the debate over free community college and Biden’s plan with Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education under President George W. Bush, and John King, former U.S. secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • What are the arguments for and against free community college?
  • Why does President Biden want to extend free community college to the whole country?
  • Where is the budget money going to in addition to community college?
  • Who is free community college designed to help?
  • How does former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings suggest the money should be spent instead of on free community college?

Focus questions:

  1. Spellings mentions that “we should be agnostic about the kinds of places that students might select.” What does the word agnostic mean? Do you agree with Spellings that money should be invested in Pell Grants instead of free tuition? Explain.
  2. King points out that $62 billion of the budget is designated for additional support, such as better advising and access to mental health services. How might these additional support services help students succeed academically?
  3. Do you think community college should be free? Why or why not?

Media literacy: 

NewsHour interviewed two former U.S. secretaries of education for this two-part series. Who else do you think should be included in this debate? Explain.

Dig deeper:

  • Check out this comparison chart explaining three arguments for and against free community college.
  • In this New York Times article, it is asked whether or not a condition to free college is a good idea. Do you think free tuition should depend on certain factors, like a certain GPA? Do you think community college should be free for all students, including wealthier students? Explain.
  • As we learned from the videos, 17 states in the U.S. already provide free community college. Check out the Legislative Information System of Virginia, for example, to find out which states these are.
    • Further research: How many states have Republican governors that support free community college? What might that imply about the politics surrounding education?

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Jacqueline Kim and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Kim is a junior at Amherst College.

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