Higher Education

Sara Goldrick-Rab

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Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab amplifies her perspective on the brief paper I posted this morning. The paper explains the facts about the Obama plan to make the first two years of community college free. In introducing the post, I wrote that she sought to “allay the fears of critics,” but she sets me right by saying that is not so. I also said that many critics worry that the plan is a subtle attempt to impose Race to the Top style metrics on community colleges and that she did not address this issue. She explains that she did not address the issue because it was not raised in the Obama plan.



Goldrick-Rab writes:

Hi everyone. Thanks to Diane for posting this. But I have to admit, I’m surprised and concerned with how you framed it. There are a few missing facts that your readers might welcome as context:


1. I co-authored a lengthy proposal for making two years of college free which was used as PART of the blueprint for this initiative. That proposal includes a thorough discussion of the resources required to do this well. Moreover, in a 2009 Brookings Institution paper, I discuss the need for a major investment in faculty and infrastructure at community colleges. Please see:








2. I do not address the questions about accountability/metrics in this FAQ because they have not been proposed by the President, not because I am avoiding them. I’ve written on this topic in the papers linked above as well.


3. I do not “seek to allay the fears of critics” in the FAQ, Diane, but rather to honestly and directly address the common questions asked. This is not “propaganda,” for I am selling nothing and am not in cahoots with anyone. I support the plan and am explaining why to the best of my ability.


4. In full disclosure, it seems worth mentioning to the readers who do not know me that I am a member of the AFT’s Higher Education Public Policy Council, recently co-authored an op-ed with Randi on the same topic, and that I’m also a new member of the board of the Shankar Institute. I’m also very active in my local here at UW-Madison, and I work with faculty, staff, and students across all public institutions in Wisconsin. I do not align with any of the elitism of my home institution, and work daily to implement the Wisconsin Idea. See the latest iteration of my efforts at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab (wihopelab.com)


I look forward to a robust and informed discussion on this blog. Again, thanks for sharing the FAQ. This proposal is among the boldest we’ve seen from the Obama Administration. While I’ve opposed pretty much everything that’s come from Arne Duncan, I like this one– and I don’t think it bears his fingerprints at all.

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