Obama Announces Free Community College Proposal

Obama-093c7By Garrick Hoffman
Liberal Arts Major
If you’re a future college student, or even currently a college student, you might end up pondering your path of education, so long as Obama’s recent proposal comes into fruition.

Under what’s been dubbed the America’s College Promise plan, about nine million students could benefit from a tenure at community college tuition-free. The federal government would cover about three-quarters of the costs, with participating states funding the rest. It could annually save students an average of $3,800 in tuition – a figure which probably does not include interest rates that come with loans.

“[Education] is the key to success,” the President said in a video posted on the White House Facebook page. “What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it.”
Mr. Obama also stressed the importance of a free community college experience due to technical training and global competition, saying “it’s something that will train our workforce so we can compete with anybody in the world.”

According to an article posted on Chronicle.com, in order to participate, “students would have to attend at least half time, maintain a 2.5 grade-point average while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their program. The money could only be used for academic programs that fully transfer to public four-year colleges or to job-training programs that have high graduation rates and also lead to degrees and certificates in high-demand fields.”

Of course with a proposal like this, there will be a degree of divisiveness.

Overall the proposal has chiefly received praise. Many have lauded the elimination of the cost-barrier, saying it could encourage scores of potential students to enroll into college who otherwise wouldn’t have. Advocates say the plan could benefit students of any income, including low-income students. Furthermore, because of state disinvestment in higher education, the idea of federal funding in this department has earned much praise from supporters.

However, education-advocacy group Ticas (or The Institute of College Access and Success) released a statement on their website, saying the plan is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because “making tuition free for all students regardless of their income is a missed opportunity to focus resources on the students who need aid the most. Consider California community colleges, with the lowest tuition in the nation and waivers for low-income students. The result? Federal student aid application rates, even among low-income students, have been notoriously low, and part-time enrollment rates sky-high.”
Other critics, such as four-year college advocates, voiced their concerns about decreases in enrollments “that are already sagging due to the decreasing number of high-school-age students.”

The proposal will still need approval from Congress, which is primarily dominated by Republicans, and the price that would come along with it is still unspecified. However, it has been noted that the proposal benefits from bipartisan appeal.

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