College Offers Free Tuition

Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 10:18 am
By: News On 6

85% of Oklahoma high school seniors say they want to go to college. Only 30% ever get a degree. News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports, now Tulsa Community College hopes free tuition makes a college education more accessible than ever.

"The cost of higher education should never be a barrier to those who have a desire to learn and believe they can achieve," said TCC President Tom McKeon.

That's why McKeon wants Tulsa County seniors to have a free ride. Tuition, books, and fees are all paid.

"We have so many young people who do not have the opportunity to attend any university," said Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller.

Miller, a former TCC student, says picking up the cost of college will pay priceless dividends.

Now any graduate of a Tulsa County high school who has a 2.0 grade average from that high school gets the free education, as long as they continue to live in the county and complete community service.

"It's definitely important because we've got low income and I really do need money to go to college," said Central High School senior Jerishia McBee.

And she's not alone. Counselors at Tulsa Central High School say money is the number one reason seniors here never make it to college.

"I came from a family of seven kids and I'm the youngest," said Central High School senior Timothy Stanton.

Stanton says funding for a college education is what he needs to realize his dreams as a real estate developer.

"I see empty fields and I can picture buildings and houses and things like that," he said.

"Our economy and our future is directly tied to higher education," said McKeon.

Business leaders say the impact of an educated workforce could jump start Tulsa's economy.

"For businesses to grow and prosper, they need quality employees," said Steve Turbo of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.

Now student’s desires, drive, and dreams can take over with the question of funding answered.

"As a teacher, I can only imagine the spark that you have ignited in the heart of every teacher who secretly hoped their student had the opportunity to access a college degree," said Oklahoma First Lady Kim Henry.

TCC will make students use other scholarships first, and then they'll pay the rest. The school estimates the new program will only take a million dollar bite out of their $90 million budget. They say this is their way to give back to the county that contributes a third of the school's budget through property taxes.