President Barack Obama announced plans Friday to recommend free community college for certain students, regardless of age, in a proposal titled “Promise of Higher Education in the United States.”
The White House published a “Fact Sheet” about the proposal, noting, “Today, more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career.”
Obama’s proposal could provide approximately 9 million students with two years of free education in a community college, which would ensure the student to save an average $3,800 in tuition, per year.
With the proposal, states will be tasked to invest more in higher education and training while community colleges should strengthen existing programs and increase the number of students who graduate. Students will also be tasked to maintain good grades and stay on track to graduate.
Obama also proposed the American Technical Training Fund, which is aimed to expand high-quality technical training programs that should meet employers’ needs and prepare people for better paying jobs. The American Technical Training Fund is based on the Tennessee Tech Centers.
According to the White House, 40 percent of college students are enrolled in over 1,100 community colleges in the U.S. The Obama administration acknowledged that community colleges provide opportunities for students, particularly individuals who are older, working and in need of remedial classes or only available part-time.
“Restructuring the community college experience, coupled with free tuition, can lead to gains in student enrollment, persistence, and completion transfer, and employment,” the White House stated in its “Fact Sheet.”
The “Promise of Higher Education in the United States” initiative will be eligible for students who attend at least part-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA. The eligible students must have shown “steady progress” toward completing their community college program in order for their tuition to be eliminated.
Community colleges are expected to offer at least one of two types of programs:
(1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or (2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers. Other types of programs will not be eligible for free tuition.
Community colleges are expected to adopt “promising and evidence-based institutional reforms” to improve student outcomes. One example the Obama administration provided is the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) from the City University of New York (CUNY). With ASAP, CUNY schools waived tuition, aided students’ pay for books and transit costs and provided academic advising. ASAP resulted in improved gains in degree completion.
According to the White House, the federal government will fund three-quarters of the average cost of community college, while the remaining of the funds will come from the states that choose to participate in the program. White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the federal government will be allocate $60 billion over the next 10 years for the program.
“States that already invest more and charge students less can make smaller contributions, though all participating states will be required to put up some matching funds,” the Fact Sheet noted.
The White House claimed similar free community college programs in Tennessee and Chicago inspired their program. In Tennessee, the state’s program saw 57,000 students, or nearly 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class, apply for its free community college program. The Tennessee program includes college counseling, mentorship and community service, and “early evidence” suggests enrollment increases, persistence and college completion.
“Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it — because in America, a quality education cannot be a privilege that is reserved for a few. I think it’s a right for everybody,” said Obama during a speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I think it’s a right for everybody who’s willing to work for it.”
Obama noted “America’s College Promise” is not a blank check or “free lunch” for people, but requires collaborative work from states, local communities and students.
“It can be a game-changer,” Obama added.
“Think about it, students who started at community colleges during those two years, and then go on to a four-year institution, they essentially get the first half of their bachelor’s degree for free,” said Obama. “People who enroll for skills training will graduate already ready to work, and they won’t have a pile of student debt. Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today.”
Obama said he will send his proposal to Congress in the next few weeks.
–Courtesy of Latin Post