Obama Unveils Free Community College Plan

Last week, President Barack Obama unveiled a new, ambitious plan aimed at improving students’ access to college, The New York Times reported. On Thursday, in a brief Facebook video, the president hinted at a proposal that would make "the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it."

Speaking to several hundred students and faculty at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee, Obama formally presented the idea of a national version of the Volunteer State's program to guarantee high school graduates free tuition to community college.

The president presented the idea as an economic imperative, reported Inside Higher Ed. He also said it was based on responsibility -- of individual students, of colleges and of states in boosting their spending on higher education.

"This isn't a blank check. It's not a free lunch," Obama said. "But for those who are willing to do the work, and states that want to be a part of this, it can be a game-changer."

Under the proposed America's College Promise program, the federal government would pay for 75 percent of the "average cost of community college" with states covering the remaining balance. Qualifying students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program. Participating community colleges would be expected to offer programs that are either 1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates.

The plan could affect up to 9 million students if all states participated and save full-time community college students an average of $3,800 in tuition per year, according to the White House.

Administration officials confirmed that the ambitious proposal would cost about $60 billion over the next decade. How the federal government would pay for the plan, which would require approval by the Republican-controlled Congress, is a major question mark, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The president will introduce the full proposal, including the estimated price tag, as part of his State of the Union address later this month, said Cecilia Muñoz, the White House domestic policy director. She said it also would be part of the administration's federal budget request for the 2016 fiscal year.


Related Links

The White House Blog


The New York Times


Inside Higher Ed