The Path to Free College

The Path to Free College In Pursuit of Access, Equity, and Prosperity

Michelle Miller-Adams
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2021
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-606-3
Price: $33.00

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cloth, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2021
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-607-0
Price: $60.00

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In The Path to Free College, Michelle Miller-Adams argues that tuition-free college, if pursued strategically and in alignment with other sectors, can be a powerful agent of change. She makes the case that broadly accessible and affordable higher education is in the public interest, yielding dividends not just for individuals but also for the communities, states, and nation in which they reside.


Michelle Miller-Adams’ work informed the Michigan Reconnect and the Futures for Frontliners programs, which provide tuition-free pathways for adults and workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her book offers research-based recommendations on how free college programs should be designed. The Path to Free College is a must read for leaders committed to increasing college attainment in their states. — Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan

Over the last half-century America expanded opportunity for higher education without a sustainable plan for financing it. The free college movement is essential and long overdue. Dr. Miller-Adams offers the essential history, evidence, and critical guidance needed to advance it from theory to policy. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with educational equity. — Sara Goldrick-Rab, president and founder, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice

Miller-Adams thoughtfully explores the landscape of free college policies and the many grassroots efforts across the United States to reestablish higher education as a public good. The Path to Free College offers a helpful guide for navigating the current landscape of free college policies in the United States and better understanding the key components of successful Promise programs. — Teachers College Record

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About the Author

Michelle Miller-Adams is a senior researcher at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and a professor of political science at Grand Valley State University. An expert on asset-building and economic development strategies, she received her PhD in political science and master of international affairs from Columbia University, and bachelor of arts in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her professional career has spanned the fields of nonprofit management, finance, research, and academia.

Miller-Adams is the author of the first book on the Kalamazoo Promise, The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo (W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2009) and an e-book on the free college movement entitled Promise Nation: Transforming Communities through Place-Based Scholarships (W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2015). She was the principal investigator for a Ford Foundation–sponsored research project that culminated in the publication of Owning Up: Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream (Brookings Institution Press, 2002). She is also the author of The World Bank: New Agendas in a Changing World (Routledge, 1999). Miller-Adams speaks regularly with local and national media about free-college programs and consults with states and communities designing their own Promise initiatives. Miller-Adams lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her daughter and two dogs.

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