On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced he would like to make the first two years of community college free. The announcement was made on Facebook and The White House Blog. In the video that went along with the announcement, the President hinted the announcement is a preview of his State of the Union address that will happen on Jan. 20, 2015.
The video, taped on Air Force One, discusses the importance of education. Obama said, “education is the key to success for our kids in the 21st century.” He also made sure to note that education is not just for kids, but everyone should have the opportunity for better jobs, wages, and benefits through further educational training. He also believes that the proposal will help the United States compete with everyone in the world. He ended the video by saying he hopes “we got a chance to make sure that Congress gets behind these kinds of efforts.”
The White House Blog explained why this proposal is so important. It is estimated that by 2020, approximately 30 percent of job openings will require an associate’s degree and 35 percent will need a bachelor’s degree. As student debt continues to increase, the White House believes students should get the education and kills they need without taking on huge amounts of debt. If all 50 states implement the proposal, it could benefit an estimated nine million students each year and save students on average $3,800 per year on tuition.
To be eligible for the program, students must maintain a 2.5 GPA while attending a community college at least half-time. Community colleges will be expected to offer academic programs that fully transfer credits to four-year college or university or occupational training programs with high graduation rates. Under the proposal, the federal government would fund 75 percent of the average cost of community college and states would be expected to cover the rest.
The proposal already has advocates and critics. Education advocates are praising the proposal and how it can help students reach their educational goals, especially low-income students who might not otherwise attend college. However, critics are hesitant about the large financial undertaking. The initial announcement did not outline funding for the program.
More details about the proposal will be announced over the next few weeks. Obama will be speaking in Tennessee to discuss education and his proposal. The fact sheet explained programs already in place in Tennessee and Chicago inspired the proposal. In addition, as stated in the video for the announcement, it was a preview of the State of the Union Address. Therefore, we should expect to learn more on Jan. 20, 2015.