Less than two weeks ago, President Barack Obama announced a proposal that would make two years of community college free for student workers in an effort to make college as accessible as high school is for Americans.
The program would require action from a Republican-dominated Congress and the details of the plan haven’t been released but White House officials estimate that 9 million students would participate and save up to $3,800 a year.
“For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class because they’re local, they’re flexible. They work for people who work full-time. They work for parents who have to raise kids full-time. They work for folks who have gone as far as their skills will take them and want to earn new ones, but don’t have the capacity to just suddenly go study for four years and not work,” said Obama during a press conference at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn.
“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 who’s willing to work for it,” he continued.
The details of the plan, how it can unfold and it’s cost, should be announced during the State of the Union Address this Tuesday. The plan is modeled after the Tennessee Promise — a state-level free-college plan starting this fall, paid for with Tennessee Lottery proceeds. According to officials, the execution would require collaboration states, community colleges and students in order to pick up the cost.
While nothing has been approved, some students are excited for the plan.
Junior psychology major Kelly Kean said that two free years would’ve given her a comfortable amount of time in college to hash out her interests and pick a major without feeling pressure.
“Those first few semesters are when students take all of their general ed. credits anyway,” said Kean. “If I had the option to get those out of the way for free and they transferred easily, I definitely would’ve gone to a community college.”
“It’s a great idea,” said sophomore history major Daniel Plante. “Everyone deserves to at least have the option of going to college, but obviously the money and time to take classes isn’t always there. We shouldn’t stop free education at the high school level.”
Some students like the idea, but are disappointed that they’ve missed out.
“Free tuition is great and all for those lucky enough to land it, but I’m already paying my bills, so I’m just trying to ignore it,” said senior history major Joe Derks. “I’ve been dealing with financial aid and all that year after year and now some kids just get two years for free? That’s annoying.”
“It’s one of those things you wish had happened just a few years earlier,” said undeclared sophomore Patrick Hawthorne.
Others believe that the idea is doomed to fail and won’t be approved by Congress.
“It’s an absolute pipe-dream,” said undeclared freshman Ashley Braley. “I mean, it’s nice, but it would cost so much money.
White House officials have said that serving the estimated number of students would cost American taxpayers $70 billion.
“Because in the end, nothing is more important to our country than you, our people. That’s our asset. We’ve got very nice real estate here,” said Obama. “We’ve got this incredible bounty, the God-given resources that we enjoy in this country. But our greatest resources are people.”