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During the industrial age, when high school was the gateway to the American dream, public-school systems covered the costs of earning a diploma. Today, however, as associate’s degrees have replaced high-school diplomas as the indispensable ticket into the middle class, families are forced to cover the costs of tuition and more. If the information-age economy demands a workforce with additional training, we need to begin cutting students and families the same deal: Anyone willing to work hard and earn the degree should be able to attend community college—for free.
With that basic bargain in mind, a small band of mayors and governors has begun working to spark a quiet revolution in American education. We believe that associate’s degrees should be as accessible for the next 80 years as high-school diplomas have been for the past 80. So the City of Chicago has...
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