Miami Dade College recently announced that it was offering free tuition to all high school graduates from Miami Dade high schools, public or private, who earn at least a 3.0 weighted GPA. This is great news for students and parents who feel pinched by the rising cost of a college degree, and it should open the door to greater opportunity for many students of lower income households.

The concern here is that this new policy will encourage mediocrity.

While free tuition is great, it may lead students to enroll at MDC when they may be better served going to a 4-year university or even a private college that has a generous financial aid program. Remember – you get what you pay for. Miami Dade College is already the largest higher education institution in the nation at over 170,000 students. It’s over-crowded, with students having difficulty enrolling in some classes. The stated strategy among many who enroll at MDC is that they will get their A.A. in 2 years, then transfer. But the reality is that it will likely take much longer than 2 years to earn their A.A. By the time they’re done and ready to transfer, they’re well into their 20s and ready for a full time job, not another 2 years (or more) working towards their bachelors degree.

My advice is to apply to a number of 4-year colleges, both private and public. About 6-8 schools, or up to 10 max should be fine. Apply for financial aid by completing a FAFSA, and make sure you meet the priority deadlines. If things don’t work out, then you can always fall back on the option of enrolling at a local community college.

If you live in South Florida and want to understand how to afford a 4 year college, then check out one of my free community workshops. My next event is on Thursday, April 7 at 6:30 pm at the Alonzo & Tracy Mourning Senior High School, in the Media Center. For more info or to register, visit www.LearnCollegeFunding.com.

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