America’s College Promise: For Those Willing to Work For It

By TAYLOR DUFFIELD
Staff Writer

On January 9, 2015, President Barack Obama announced a proposal for education that would allow access for all Americans to attain a two-year community college education free of charge.
President Obama’s “America’s College Promise” program is a plan to expunge the tuition of two-year community college programs for students so that a secondary education is available for all citizens to receive. During the proposal, Obama said, “no one with drive and discipline should be denied a college education simply because they can’t pay for it.”

The intended outcome of this program is to view a college education as universal as a high school diploma is in America. Obama stressed the important role of community colleges as an “essential pathway to the middle class.”

According to the White House, Obama’s proposal has the potential to benefit about 9 million students annually and help a conventional student to save an average of $3,800 in tuition a year. “Students who start at community colleges during those two years and then go on to a four-year institution essentially get half of their bachelor’s degree free,” said the president.
The idea of how to ultimately pay the cost of tuition would be a shared responsibility between the federal government and the state. However, each state has the option to participate. The federal government would ideally cover about three-quarters of the amount, while the remainder would come from the states that choose to partake in the program. America’s College Promise is based on the Tennessee Promise that has proven to be successful in offering free community college to students of the state.

“There are no free rides in America,” said Obama. “You’re going to have to earn it.” There will be stipulations in order to qualify for the program. Requirements include that the student must attend college at least part-time and is responsible for maintaining a grade point average of at least a 2.5.

Along with the cooperation of the states and the students, the community colleges themselves must compromise as well. Participating two-year community colleges must ensure they maintain their standards of education. In addition, the colleges would be required to offer students credits that are transferable to all public four-year colleges nationwide.

Perhaps America’s College Promise would help to reduce the amount of American college students that drop out of school prior to earning a degree. In the recent past, the college dropout rate reached an alarming high and was referred to as a “national crisis” by americaspromise.org. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31% of students engaged in a two-year program will graduate within three years. Obama’s program would prevent students from having to resort to deserting their education due to financial constraints.

Some American citizens are admittedly reluctant of the suggested proposition. They fear that a nation in debt will turn to their taxpayers’ pockets to make up for the cost of students’ tuition. According to the White House, the program would cost the federal government about $60 billion over 10 years. The states that agree to take part of the program would cover about another $20 billion.

The proposition is now with Congress to make a decision over the coming weeks as to whether or not America’s College Promise will go into effect. If the program does indeed pass, American citizens of all ages and backgrounds will have a strong opportunity for success.

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