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President Obama proposes free community college

Proposed plan would make community college cost-free for qualifying part-time students

On January 8, President Barack Obama informed the country of his latest proposal: free community college for “responsible students” across America.

In a video posted on the White House website, Obama announced his proposal “to make sure that community college is accessible for everybody,” by making “the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it.”

“It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that’ll train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world,” Obama said.

If all 50 states decided to invoke the new plan, known formally as America’s College Promise (ACP),  approximately 9 million students across the United States could each save up to $3,800 in tuition, according to the White House’s post.

The program would involve a number of conditions. Students would be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA while continuing to be a half-time student, meaning an enrollment of at least six to eight credit hours.

The program would also require community colleges to provide classes that have transferrable credits to a four year university, or occupational training programs that have high graduation rates and lead to in-demand jobs and certificates.

The tuition costs would be transferred to both the federal and state governments. The federal government would cover 75 percent of the average costs. If a state chooses to participate in the program, they will have to cover the rest.

Higher education experts have noted that ACP bears similarities to education programs in Tennessee and Chicago which also provide free community college. Obama’s proposed program, however, would entail a broader outreach.

According to the U.S. News & World Report, ACP would be available to “non-traditional students,” which include older adults, as well as young adults graduating from high school. It would also cover students working on certificate programs in addition to the traditional associate degree–seekers and students hoping to transfer credits to bachelor degree programs.

During his Jan. 22 State of the Union Address, Obama spoke of his proposal before Congress. “I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today,” he said in his speech.

The free-community-college proposal is expected to face a number of obstacles that could deter its realization. As USA Today noted, any legislation would require passage by a Congress controlled in both chambers by the Republican Party. A spokesperson for Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner already described the proposal as “more like a talking point than a plan.”

Another deterring factor may be its cost. ACP is projected to require approximately $60 billion.



Picture: Courtesy of The White House