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What Would It Take To Offer Free Public College In Pennsylvania?

Seth Wenig
New graduates line up before the start of their commencement in New Jersey in May 2018.

For some, free college is still an outrageous idea, but legislation introduced in June aims to supply just that.

Sen. Vincent Hughes and state Rep. James Roebuck, both Philadelphia Democrats, proposed a pair of companion bills that would underwrite two years of tuition and fees for recent high school graduates attending one of the 14 community colleges; provide four years of tuition and fees at a state-owned or state-related university for students with an annual family income of $110,000 or less; and offer room and board assistance for students whose family income is $48,000 or less.

Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, represents faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

He told the Tribune-Review: “I'm not Pollyannaish. I don't think this is going to happen tomorrow … but if we don't start the conversation nothing will change.”

Mash joined Trib education reporter Deb Erdley and Bob Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, to discuss the $800 million plan and how it compares to similar programs in New York, Tennessee and Oregon.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9AM to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here.

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