President Barack Obama announced a new plan on Thursday to make the first two years of community college free — or very low cost — for millions of students in a major investment that the White House believes is important as the cost of higher education continues to climb.
The program, which is inspired by similar initiatives in Chicago and Tennessee, could affect up to 9 million students. The program would use federal funding to pay 75% of the tuition while states pick up the remaining 25%, according to the Los Angeles Times.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Barack Obama” author_title=”President of the United States”]
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.
While advisors did not say how much the plan would cost or how it would be paid for, experts say it would cost the federal government tens of billions of dollars.
The plan would require legislation, which will be difficult now that Republicans control the House and Senate. If all fifty states participated, the proposal would help up to 9 million students, saving students enrolled full-time $3,800 a year on average, CNN Money reported.
The proposal would cover both half-time and full-time students, but to be eligible, students would need to maintain a 2.5 grade point average and “make steady progress toward completing a program.” It would only apply to schools that offer credit toward an occupational training program that awards degrees in high-demand fields, or four-year degrees.
President Obama plans to include the program in his budget for the upcoming year and detail it in his State of the Union address on January 20.
The program is modeled after the free community college program in Tennessee, called the Tennessee Promise, which will be available to students who graduate high school this year. The program has already drawn about 58,000 applicants — or 90% of the state’s high school seniors — which is double the amount expected, according to the New York Times.
Nearly 7.7 million Americans currently attend community college for credit, and 40% attend full time. The federal government provides about $9.1 billion to community colleges, which is nearly 16% of their total revenue. Student tuition covers another 30% of revenue.