Tennessee recently became the first state to offer tuition-free community college. Tuition-free community college will provide access to higher education for those who might have previously been excluded from such a luxury. The approved bill will expand the 2014 Tennessee Promise program that made “tuition and fees free for recent high school graduates enrolled in a community college or technical school.”

Governor Bill Haslam is scheduled to sign this bill into law soon. He believes that “if we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs.” This law will be the cornerstone of the governor’s initiatives to increase the number of college degrees in Tennessee to 55 percent by 2025. The last count in 2016 revealed that only 39 percent of residents had gone to college. Governor Haslam believes that an investment in people, providing them access to high-quality education, will have major ripple effects for the state of Tennessee.

Other states are taking similar initiatives on the student debt crisis. In April, New York State made two- and four-year state colleges free for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. Government officials in Rhode Island are also considering proposals to make two-year colleges tuition free.

Some believe that student debt in this country is crippling our youth. In our economy, the cost of college tuition has increased faster than healthcare. Students can be forced to take on more and more debt to obtain degrees that don’t necessarily equip them for the employee marketplace. Some, like the president of Purdue University, believe that student debt is essentially indentured servitude, burdening students who are reaching their full potential.

Student debt is hurting our economy in a variety of ways. For example, people with debt tend to postpone home ownership, marriage, and starting families, which means less active interaction with the economy. Additionally, the rate of new business formation among those who have borrowed money is a lot lower than other demographics. Tuition-free higher education could be the solution the student debt crisis.

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