Community college finds high demand for free classes for jobless

My post earlier today on putting off education to pay the bills got me thinking about an experiment Normandale Community College in Bloomington tried this term — free tuition in selected classes for people who were unemployed.

The school’s offer made a splash late last year along with Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s plan to provide classes at half price for those who qualified for unemployment.

With the semester winding down, I checked with Normandale to see how it went.

The school ended up with a lot more demand than expected for the free classes — 269 students signed up. Officials had expected fewer than 100.

It didn’t cost Normandale because the classes offered were ones that typically wouldn’t have been filled anyway. Also, students who took the free classes also took 80 classes at Normandale where tuition was required, a spokeswoman said.

Are free or discounted class for the jobless a trend?

It’s been happening in communities around the country this spring. A Pennsylvania senator recently unveiled a plan where the federal government would reimburse community colleges that offer free tuition to workers who have lost their jobs.

Locally, it’s not clear how long the free/discounted classes will continue.

Anoka-Ramsey plans to continue its half-price offer through the summer term and says more than 200 people took its offer this semester.

Normandale won’t offer the free classes in the summer because they’re expected to be full. A decision about continuing the offer in the fall could come later this month.

What do you think of the idea? With unemployment at a 25 year high in Minnesota, should community colleges offer free classes to jobless people?Tell us.

Also, check out the map below for recent stories from our audience about the job climate in Minnesota, then share your story.

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