In January of this year, President Obama proposed a new program for participating states to offer free tuition and to make two-year community colleges available to all new students.
As posted on the White House website, “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” Obama said. This would of course require backing by Congress, which is primarily controlled by Republicans. Under Obama’s new proposal, students who attend as minimally as part-time, make progress towards completing their degree, and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average will have all of their tuition paid.
In Obama’s proposed plan, Congress would need to pass a law for the federal government to pay for 75 percent of the country’s community college tuition. The states cooperating in the program would pay for the other 25 percent. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) just proposed the new bill in July of this year. According to the legislative bill, an estimated nine million students would benefit if all 50 states joined in Obama’s new tuition plan. Full-time community college students would be able to save up to $3,800 on average, as reported on CNN’s Money site.
In a July 2 speech at the University of Wisconsin, President Obama acknowledged his plan for free community college.” Now, in an economy that’s constantly changing, we’ve also got to give every American the chance to earn the skills they need to stay competitive,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got to be investing in job training and apprenticeships that help folks earn the skills for that new job or better-paying job. That’s why we should make community college free for responsible students — like Tammy Baldwin is introducing in the United States Senate. No middle-class family should be priced out of the education that they need.”
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the largest supporters of President Obama’s free community college tuition, instantly proposed an amendment to the Senate budget to make two-year community college free.
This program will not qualify for all programs given at the community college level. Community colleges will need to be required to offer programs and degrees that can easily transfer to four-year colleges. Currently, Tennessee, a state with republican leaders, and Chicago, a democratically-run city, have had active free community college programs without any problems to date.
Obama recently amended his proposal to not include students from families with an average income of $200,000 or more. According to the Department of Education, only 2.7 percent of community college students come from families that make over $200,000 per year on average. It is not a money issue since those students would not cost the federal government much more. His proposal is specifically geared toward those who cannot afford it. As it is projected, Obama’s new plan will cost the federal government $60.3 billion over the next 10 years.
Obama calls a community college education as a “central pathway to the middle-class.” There is more planning needed to get this proposal off the ground but hopefully it will bring great changes to the economy.