UW–Madison’s Odle testifies on statewide free college program before Minnesota state Senate committee

Taylor Odle, assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, offered expert testimony about a proposed statewide free college program before the Minnesota Senate Committee on Higher Education on Feb. 21.

Taylor Odle

Odle’s research focuses on the economics of education and education policy, with a specific focus on college access and success. He also regularly advises and partners with states and nonprofit organizations seeking to develop, scale, and study college access programs, including a partnership with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education on Direct Admissions Minnesota.

In his testimony, Odle provided evidence on the role of free college programs in promoting enrollment, equity, and state workforce development. He said schools that enact free community college programs enjoy sizable enrollment increases.

“These enrollment increases are accomplished in part by raising the college-going rate of recent high school graduates,” he said. 

Odle also said the programs can help bring more diversity to student populations. 

“In almost all documented cases, these enrollment and college-going increases driven by free-college programs are larger among students of color (especially Black and Hispanic students) and students from low-income backgrounds,” he said. 

Odle said there is a “robust body of evidence” that free college programs also promote FAFSA completion, reduce debt burdens, and raise students’ K-12 performance outcomes. 

“It is for these reasons that the free college movement has swept the nation — not only as a popular political platform, but because free college programs are backed by decades of rigorous evidence,” he said.

A video of Odle’s full testimony is available here.

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