The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has some good ideas for prodding our public universities to emphasize graduation instead of just trying to boost admission. We're 10th in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates who go right to college but only 27th in the percentage who graduate in four years. This, though, is perhaps the most interesting idea:
To address that problem, the commission wants to expand the state's free tuition program, Twenty-first Century Scholars, to include more middle-income students. As an alternative, it suggested making two years of education at Ivy Tech free for all students, regardless of income.
Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution says: "Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all."
A free education in Indiana, then, isn't just public policy; it's a constitutional right. But we generally think of that as covering school through the high school years (and pretend that the cost of books and materials somehow isn't covered by "free"). But having just a high school education is worth less and less as time goes on -- some post-secondary education is a necessity for most people. Making two years at Ivy Tech free for all would amount to the state recognizing that reality.
Of course, whether public education is all it's cracked up to be is another subject.