President Obama recently proposed two years of free community college tuition to all. This blog post will delve further into this proposal.
America’s College Promise
America’s College Promise proposes free tuition during the first two years of community college. Students would be eligible to receive up to $3800 a year for tuition and fees by maintaining a minimum C+ average in high school, attending school at least part-time and making steady progress towards their degree.
At the State of the Union, President Obama stated “world-class education starts with
children, but that adults need training, too…. we also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.”
President Obama wants to “make community college as universal as high school” This plan estimates help to over 9 million students, by granting two years of free college tuition at one of 1100 community colleges across the United States.
America’s College Promise would boost college enrollment, especially among lower income students. In addition, with only one-third of all community college students obtaining a two year degree, this proposal incentivizes students to remain in college for at least two years.
This plan also addresses the student debt crisis by potentially eliminating the need for student loans for the first half of their college education. In addition, this proposal ensures community colleges offer credits that fully transfer to local public four-year universities. This, in itself, will ease the student debt crisis by guaranteeing courses that will transfer, allowing for graduation within four years.
The most obvious argument for dissenters of this proposal is the estimated cost of nearly $70 billion. The federal government would cover 75% of the costs, though not as a direct payment to students. This would be to states who agree to ‘evidence-based institutional reform.’ Each participating state would cover the remaining tuition costs.
Some critics argue this plan will benefit higher income families, rather than the intended lower income student population. For the neediest students, Pell grants (up to $5730 a year based upon annual income) already assists with tuition, transportation, and other associated costs of attendance. Thus, families who might already afford community college will now receive government assistance.
By proposing the idea of free community college, President Obama reminds us of his North Star 2020 campaign promise, “by 2020…the U.S. should be the best-educated country in the world” and create “a better-educated workforce…which is key to the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy.”