White House says it plans to save nine million college students $3,800 each per year
President Obama is proposing that every American student with an interest in obtaining a degree should receive two years free of community college tuition.
The US community college system includes over 1600 campuses across the country, and offers two-year associate degrees that often count as credit towards a bachelor degree at many four-year US universities.
These colleges enroll approximately 12 million students per year, with over 7 million of them taking courses for credit towards a future bachelor’s degree.
The White House says that if all the states adopt its plan, which would require them to fund a quarter of the total costs, it would save nine million college attendees nearly $3, 800 in tuition per year.
The ambitious plan is targeted at any student who maintains a 2.5 GPA and attends school at least part-time, regardless of their own or their parent’s income, and means to turn community college into an extensions of the kindergarten – grade 12 school program.
“Two years of college should be free and should be universal and should be of high quality for responsible students, just like high school is today,” said Ted Mitchell, of the US department of education.
“It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so we can compete with anybody in the world,” the president said.
A White House official said the plan would cost $60 billion over 10 years, and as a spokesperson for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner pointed out, the president proposed no plan to fund this program.
“With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan,” spokesperson Cory Fritz said.
Despite scepticism, the president’s plan has the potential for bipartisan support.
It is based on a Tennessee program developed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, who will join the President in talks about the proposal.
“Free two-year colleges would serve as a concrete measure directed toward giving people the skills for better jobs – many of them in the science and technology arena,” writes Gary Stix in the magazine Scientific American.
“It would also be a small step to help narrow economic disparities, an issue that consumes so much political and academic debate.”
New York Times’ writer David Leonhardt says the impact of this proposal could be “huge,” especially as the 2016 presidential election becomes increasingly unpredictable.
“Battles over healthcare, immigration, gun control and other issues may attract more attention,” he writes.
“But both history and economics suggest that nothing may have a greater effect on the future of living standards than education policy.”
Others are less thrilled with President Obama’s proposal, such as HotAir’s Ed Morrissey, who believes the bill represents another unnecessary burden for taxpayers.
“This bill will get picked up by the taxpayers, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars,” he said.
He believes the bill will only drive up the cost of tuition by increasing demand, making education even more unaffordable than it already is, “just as we have seen with college loan programmes.”
While the program is certainly ambitious, it may in the end face the same fate as the many similar bills that have been tried, and failed, to make their way through Congress.
However, the financial cost isn’t the only hurdle. With a Republican controlled House and Senate, Obama’s proposal faces serious challenges in becoming a reality without a significant measure of support from both sides of the aisle.