Why Governments Pay for College

CHICAGO—A surge of innovation in states and cities is building momentum for what could become a seismic shift in American education.

Just as the country came to expect in the decades around World War II that young people would finish at least 12 years of school, more local governments are now working to ensure that students complete at least 14 years. With that change, political leaders in both parties are increasingly acknowledging that if society routinely expects students to obtain at least two years of schooling past high school, government has a responsibility to provide it for them cost-free.

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