President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a logical next step in today’s skilled economy. Access to free education shouldn’t end at high school, but there’s more we can do to improve community colleges.

In his piece in The Atlantic, TCF senior fellow Richard D. Kahlenberg addresses a key concern about the program—namely that it would allow wealthier students to get free education:

Most commentators have focused on scrutinizing the plan’s strategy, questioning its feasibility and its failure to address the root problems plaguing higher education. But they’re overlooking the truly revolutionary possibility that it would make two-year institutions more economically and racially integrated—something that should be applauded.

The goal of socioeconomic diversity in community colleges is just one of eight recommendations made by The Century Foundation Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal in its report, Bridging the Higher Education Divide: Strengthening Community Colleges and Restoring the American Dream.

Those eight recommendations—to improve funding of community colleges and reduce racial and economic stratification between two- and four-year institutions—are:

  • Adopting a federal “adequacy-based” funding formula in higher education similar to federal and state programs for K–12 schools that will make extra resources available to schools and populations with the highest poverty and remediation needs, and that otherwise need the most assistance.

  • Establishing greater transparency in public financial subsidies to higher education.

  • Encouraging growth in redesigned institutions that facilitate connections between community and four-year colleges.

  • Taking concrete steps to improve community college transfers to four-year institutions.

  • Encouraging innovations such as Honors Programs to build more inclusive and diverse student populations in community colleges.

  • Promoting innovations in early college programs that enhance community college diversity.

  • Prioritizing funding for new programs at economically and racially isolated community colleges.

  • Incentivizing four-year institutions to engage in affirmative action for low-wealth students.

Read the full report.