Obama seeks free community college tuition

Obama seeks free community college tuition

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address.

By Katie Pach
eSomething Staff

During his State of the Union address and the weeks preceding it, President Barack Obama introduced a plan to make the first two years of community college free to any American “willing to work for it”.

This willingness to work would mean colleges, and students would all need to do their part to ensure a quality education for everyone.

This does not mean a monetary price tag, but instead means that students would need to earn their tuition by keeping their grade-point average at least 2.5, President Obama said in a speech Jan. 9. Schools would also need to work to improve their academics and prepare students for good jobs upon graduation, he added.

The “America’s College Promise” would mean that the federal government would provide for 75 percent of community college tuition, with participating states taking care of the rest.

Similar plans have seen success in Tennessee with the “Tennessee Promise” introduced by Governor Bill Haslam (R) and the City Colleges of Chicago free tuition plan introduced by Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D). President Obama stressed in his speech to Tennessee’s Pellissippi State Community College earlier this month that this will need to be a bipartisan effort. “Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible”.

The President wants to make community colleges “as free and accessible as high school is today”, but what does that mean for us? Would students be more open to the idea of attending two years of community college before moving on to a four year school?

“I would definitely consider the idea,” said senior Greg Myak. “If community college were free, because it’s a great opportunity to touch up your skills and get a higher GPA to get into the school you want at no cost.”

Rick Rettig, a PHS guidance counselor, likes the idea of this plan, but he doubts if community colleges can handle a large influx of students.

“I could easily see them doubling or tripling their enrollment,” he said. “I love the idea, I just don’t know if we’re structurally ready for it at this point.”

With such a large increase in student population, Mr. Rettig is doubtful that schools like Owens Community College or Terra Community College could handle the physical demands of so many students.

Owens is wholeheartedly in support of the plan.

“Owens Community College administrators are encouraged that national and state leaders continue to call upon community colleges as part of the solution to affordable education,” according to a statement from the college.

“Many details of the proposal have not yet been released, which will be necessary for administrators to fully understand the impact on programs and student eligibility.”

The future of America’s community colleges will become clearer as more information is released, but the Obama administration is taking a special interest in education. For too long, education has been a privilege for those who can afford it, and this bill may be a significant step in changing that.

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