President Obama offers free community college

David Nguyen

Community colleges will be highly affected by the President's "America's College Promise" proposal if it passes Congress

Danilo Urquia, Staff Writer

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President Barack Obama announced the America’s College Promise, a statement in which he proposes making two years of community college free. The proposal was officially unveiled on January 9, 2015 and it seems promising for low income and nontraditional students who wish to get a higher education.

The initiative will allow students to obtain an Associate’s Degree at no cost, and to achieve this, everyone must do their part; community colleges must work towards creating stronger advising and educational programs, ensuring that students are well informed, and evaluated based on their performance to make sure that transferring and graduating rates increase. States must provide with economic contribution towards higher education and training, and students must have an educational plan and maintain good grades.

The program is aimed to benefit responsible students who are enrolled at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and are working towards a degree. “Those are very reasonable requirements” says Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Byron. The government is proposing to work together with the participating states, covering seventy-five percent of the total average cost, leaving the other twenty-five percent of the cost to the state. “If that’s the case, it’ll be interesting to see who participates” says Financial Aid Supervisor Pilar Ezeta, “our average student doesn’t take two years, especially if they don’t have the basic skills”. According to the Fact Sheet, the official document released by the White House, if all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit.

How the program will be budgeted, will be discussed in the president’s 2016 budget proposal. “Funds can easily come from tax breaks to people who already have vast amounts of money,” says Dr. Byron. The proposal is still in the works, and when it will be effective is undefined, as it’s still yet to be approved by the congress. “I’m very interested to see if it even passes,” says Ezeta.

Obama also announced the Technical Training Fund program, in which he proposes establishing work-based and training programs in community colleges that would work in partnership with local industries, teaching specific skills to low-wage workers that would allow them to obtain better paying jobs, for example coding, nursing and robotics.

Community college has become the most affordable route to a Bachelor’s degree, enrolling about forty percent of college students each year. As the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) states “these institutions are viewed as vehicles of access and opportunity”. Last month in his State of the Union speech, the President said that community college should become “as free and universal in America as high school is today”. “Education is the future… you need to get higher education to get anywhere in life” says Mesa College student Taylor Brown, which in fact is what the President mentioned in his speech last month by saying that by 2020 “two in three job openings will require some higher education.” For now the plan has been put on hold, and federal critics will be crucial for the outcome of the proposal.

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