Beyond Free College outlines an audacious national agenda—consistent with, but far more comprehensive than, the current “free college” movement—that builds on the best of US higher education’s populist history such as the G.I. Bill and the community college transfer function. The authors align a wide constellation of higher education trends—online learning, prior learning assessment, competency-based learning, high school college-credit— with a rapidly shifting student transfer environment that privileges college credit as the pivotal educational catalyst to boost access and completion. The book’s agenda seeks greater productive investment in postsecondary education by privileging a single metric—lower-cost-per-degree-granted—as the animating driver of a transfer pathway that will fulfill the potential of its historical, progressive innovators. Beyond Free College’s goal is as simple as it is urgent: To galvanize higher education advocates in an effort to reorganize, reorient, and reignite the transfer function to serve the needs of a neotraditional student population that now constitutes the majority of college-goers in America; and in ways that advance completion, not just access to higher education.
Dr. Eileen L. Strempel is currently the Inaugural Dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA, after serving as the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati. An American Council on Education Fellow hosted by Colgate University as well as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Strempel is a nationally recognized champion for transfer students and views superb public education as one of the principal social justice issues of our time.
Dr. Stephen J. Handel has nearly four decades of experience in higher education, with a focus on the needs of community college students seeking the baccalaureate degree. After serving as the chief admissions officer for the University of California System, he is currently the executive director of higher education assessment use for the College Board, where he consults with colleges and universities around the country to implement admissions and enrollment practices that serve the needs of first-year and transfer students alike.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Chapter 1. Transfer Contradictions: Bridging the Academic Divide
Chapter 2. The Flickering and Largely Untold History of Transfer
Chapter 3. Second Chances Are Good, But First Chances Are Better: The Role of K–12 in Transfer
Chapter 4. The Rise of Dual Credit
Chapter 5. Prior-Learning Credit: Honoring Transfer Students Who Work for a Living
Chapter 6. Competency-Based Education: Promises, Potential, and Proof
Chapter 7. Online Learning in the Twenty-first Century: Possibilities and Promises
Chapter 8. The Shifting Higher Education Landscape
Chapter 9. Tomorrowland: Proven Pathways Forward
Chapter 10. Beyond Traditional Transfer: Findings and Recommendations
About the Authors
Although written before the pandemic of COVID-19, Beyond Free College: Making Higher Education Work for 21st Century Students outlines a compelling, research-informed pathway forward for our country. Inspired by models such as StriveTogether and the G.I. Bill, Strempel and Handel issue a clarion call for an immediate strategic national reinvestment in our higher education infrastructure. With a clear focus on degree completion and the cost of producing those degrees, we as a nation are called to re-enact the support provided to our veterans returning from World War Two. The G.I. Bill garnered bipartisan support, and provided tuition dollars, alongside essential life supports for food, housing, and childcare. At this critical time in our nation’s history, as we confront a pandemic and a racial reckoning, the research is unassailable: Education, properly supported and strategically focused, can transform lives, families, and our society.
After reading Strempel and Handel’s inspiring book I come away all the more convinced that people who get bachelor’s degrees need to go to colleges that give them. We also need to strengthen our transfer systems and mandate that all public four-year colleges keep at least 20% of their overall enrollment open to two-year college transfers. A “must-read” for those wanting to know how to make higher education work better in the 21st century.
If our recent history teaches us anything it is that we support and strengthen all of our colleges and universities when we focus on doing a better job of including the un-included, serving the underserved, and advancing those historically left behind. Only then will we honor the ‘higher’ in higher education. Strempel and Handel’s book, Beyond Free College, gives us the blueprint for an honest, research-informed start.
A breakthrough examination of the transfer landscape, Beyond Free College creates a compelling narrative of today’s “neo-traditional student” and their variegated college pathways while urging a collective reinvestment in higher education. Strempel and Handel bring their steadfast advocacy to a complex issue by contextualizing transfer within broader education and economic spheres and create a tangible roadmap for reshaping higher education. This is a must read for scholars, practitioners, leaders, and policy-makers invested in challenging the status quo, ensuring educational equity, and advancing our citizenry.