3 not-so-obvious ways you benefit when community college is free.

Recently, Kentucky came one step closer to making free community college a reality for its residents.

House Bill 626, which passed the Kentucky House of Representatives on March 17, 2016, requires Kentucky students to apply for student aid and would allow the state to pay the difference between that and their tuition for up to two years.

Students would simply have to take 12 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.


Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Free community college is not without its critics.

When President Barack Obama proposed a free two-year college plan last year, some called it a handout, and others — such as the Institute for College Access and Success — got more literary and called it a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

Yet in Kentucky now and in Tennessee two years ago, there have been major strides forward.

People who support this talk about valuing education, and those against it caution about raising taxes, but there's a lot more to it than that: Providing students with the option to attend community college for free isn't just about giving students access to education. It certainly does that, but it does a lot more, too.

Here are three surprising ways making community college free benefits everyone:

1. It strengthens the economy in the long-term.

The simple fact is, when people are more educated, they earn better wages, expand economic opportunity, and strengthen the overall economy.

The correlation is pretty easy to follow. People with higher education like a college degree have more job opportunities. It's also been shown that they're more likely to become more productive citizens and workers. That means more people with better jobs, with more money in their pockets, who are more able to effectively stimulate the economy.

Many students in other countries attend college for free or close to it. Like this university in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Axel Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images.

One of the most often cited criticisms of free community college plans is that people don't want to spend their tax dollars on a perceived handout for others. In fact, anyone paying to support accessible education is actually helping to stimulate the economy in the long run.

2. Increasing education is related to lower crime rates.

Many studies, including this one from 2005, have shown that an increase in education has led to a reduction in crime, usually in pretty amazing proportions. For example, if the average time spent in school increased by one year, murder and assault would drop by almost 30%, motor vehicle theft by 20%, arson by 13%, and burglary and larceny would drop about 6%

We often forget about the large systemic injustices that contribute to crime, such as lack of wealth and opportunity. As we've seen, college education can lead to more economic opportunity, which can begin to tear down some of those barriers.

The Rhode Island Correctional Facility in Cranston. It's estimated that keeping a prisoner in Rhode Island costs over $40,000 a year. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Also, a year in prison is in some cases more expensive than a year at Princeton — and taxpayers aren't on the hook to covering a year at Princeton. So there's a massive amount of taxpayer money to be saved by educating the masses instead of imprisoning them.

3. Finally, and most importantly, making community college free lets kids and teenagers know they're worth investing in.

Among the most hidden benefits of free access to community college is what happens in the hearts and minds of kids who suddenly have a feasible way to continue their education.

In Kentucky, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the program would cost about $20 million a year and could help 15,000 to 18,000 students in its first year.

That's 18,000 students who will suddenly have access to the life-changing and self-improving qualities of continuing their education. Thousands of kids who are suddenly being told that their state will actually pay money to help them succeed, and that they're worth that investment.

Free community college isn't just a handout.

Most Americans say they can't afford even public college. Many kids who manage to scrape together enough savings and loans to attend college have to remain in debt for years. Sometimes decades.

Giving people access to free community college is an investment. It would pay off in the economy and in the reduction of crime. It would save taxpayers money, and it would increase the productivity and wealth of our entire country.

Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images.

But beyond that, it would send millions of kids a valuable message, one that would be undeniable in its benefits.

That message is that they're capable of succeeding. That they can, and should go to college, to find out what they're made of and how they can help us all build a better future.

And that we believe in them so much, we're willing to pay for it.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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