Dear Commons Community,
Emulating Tennessee’s policy of free tuition for community college students, President Obama is to announce a similar program today by the federal government. As reported in the New York Times:
“President Obama said yesterday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States.
The initiative, which the president plans to officially announce today at a Tennessee community college, aims to transform publicly financed higher education in an effort to address growing income inequality.
The plan would be funded by the federal government and participating states, but White House officials declined to discuss how much it would cost or how it would be financed. It is bound to be expensive and likely a tough sell to a Republican Congress not eager to spend money, especially on a proposal from the White House.
“With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan,” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.
Mr. Obama’s advisers acknowledged Thursday that the program’s goals would not be achieved quickly. The president, however, was more upbeat. “It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted Thursday night by the White House.
The proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average — about a C-plus — and who “make steady progress toward completing a program,” White House officials said. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields. The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, and states that choose to participate would cover the remainder. If all states participate, the administration estimates, the program could cover as many as nine million students, saving them each an average of $3,800 a year.”
This is a fine idea but it is coming too late in the President’s term in office. Symbolically it is important but as the article indicates, the Republican-controlled Congress will not likely support it.