By Georgia Salvaryn and Owen James
Getting through four plus years of college is tough; all the loans to gather and books to buy. But what if your first two years in a community college were free? In President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, he announced an initiative to provide two years of free community college. According to the Heads Up America: Free College Doesn’t Get You What You Want article on americanactionforum.org, “States would be required to opt into the proposed program and commit 25 percent of the necessary funding.” The article also quotes, “61 percent of community college students fail to earn a degree or credential in six years.” On completecollege.org, their Building High-Quality Community Colleges: The Forgotten Piece article states that “more than 80 percent of students entering community college say they plan to graduate from a four year school. Six years later, just 15 percent have done so.” Also, completecollege.org states that 78 percent of students do not complete their studies within two years. Can free community college change that figure? Recently, a survey was distributed among a small group of students and they were asked the following questions:
• What comes to mind when you hear “free community college?”
• Would you want community college to be free? Why or why not?
• What do you believe the ben fits and/or consequences are if community college is free?
• Do you believe free community college would be seen by the majority as an opportunity or obligation? In other words, do you believe free college devalues a college educations or enhances a college education?
• If free college devalues a college education, what standards should be set for students who want to attend and keep their free college education? (For example, there could be a standard GPA of 3.0 or there could be a range GPA)
• Do you believe people will take advantage of free college? In a good or bad way? Why? When the surveys were completed, a majority of the students presented mostly positive answers regarding free community college. “I think it is a great idea,” answered an anonymous student. “Some people cannot afford college.” Another student believes that it would be “an incentive to go to school,” which is true in the case of many. However, there are downsides to the ideal of a free community college. Student Josh Carll believes in the potential of “hidden fees, strings attached, and headaches.” It is also mentioned more than once by multiple survey takers that a free community college would be financially complex. “How would the college be funded?” asks Kylee Bagley.
What was most interesting and important in the survey was that every student agreed on the belief that students would take advantage of free community college in a positive way. Many students took note that more people would be able to pursue their dreams without the struggles of financial aid or debt. The majority of surveyed students also agreed on the implementation of a 3.0 GPA requirement to avoid students who are simply taking up space in lecture halls. While this may sound steep to newcomers, students already attending Cumberland County College are well aware of all the help available on campus to achieve and maintain this grade point average. According to headsupamerica.us, the United States is 12th in the world for people with college educations and that more than a third of community college students are the first in their family to go to college.
Heads Up America is a site where supporters of free community college can pledge to work hard and graduate college with a four plus year degree. They believe, “Two years of free community college will lead to a better, smarter America.” Their number of sup-porters is 65,295 people and counting and their goal is to reach 100,000 supporters. To make a pledge, go online to the Heads Up America website and follow the instructions on how to show support for free community college. The web-site also gives you access to articles and updates on the free community college movement.