President Obama proposed a $60 billion act called the America’s College Promise Proposal that will give two years of community college free to hardworking students. The proposal requires federal funding that will pay three-quarters of the tuition, with the state paying the rest.
“America thrived in the 20th century in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world,” White House officials stated in a press release Jan. 9. “Today more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy.”
Inspired by programs that are in effect in Tennessee and Illinois, President Obama desires to make the first half of a bachelor’s degree at no cost to the student, with the enactment of America’s College Promise proposal.
If every state participates, the proposal could impact 9 million students and save them about $3,800 a year in tuition and fees.
“I think a lot of students will benefit from this,” said alumnus and former APU transfer student Ewomazino Shaffner. “Having major student loans when you’re done is a little discouraging. Any financial assistance with school is a plus.”
In order to make it work, the president urges participation from all sides. Community colleges will have to bolster their programs to increase the graduation rate, the state will have to invest more into community colleges and students will have to stay focused to graduate.
“Restructuring the community college experience, coupled with free tuition, can lead to gains in student enrollment, persistence and completion transfer, and employment,” the White House press release stated.
To qualify for America’s College Promise, the participant must attend school half-time or more, have a 2.5 or higher grade-point average and be on track to complete a program.
Community colleges will have to offer programs where the student can transfer his or her units to a four-year college, resulting in two years finished. The school must offer programs that make the student highly desirable to employers as well as adopt programs like counseling and financial aid for textbooks that aid in making a student’s life successful.
Similarly, states will need to coordinate with high schools to make sure that classes aren’t taken superfluously.
“That is really helpful,” APU transfer student and junior journalism major Raelene Kajkowski said. “Even if I wasn’t a transfer student, I would just take all of my general education courses for free and then have them transfer over here, … probably save more than $40,000.”
Proponents said similar programs have been popular so far. According to the Obama Administration, 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class applied for the program in the first year of its trial in Tennessee.
Critics of the plan said it actually would cost closer to $200 billion, triple Obama’s projected cost. Some also have said the problem in higher education isn’t affordability but retention, as grants already allow many students to go to community colleges for free but enrollees aren’t staying in school.
“There’s state-to-state participation as far as we know; so, we don’t know if California will participate in it. California right now is offering one of the cheapest community college educations in the country,” APU’s assistant director of transfer recruitment Josh Waldon said.
“We are not exactly sure how the subsidy will come into play in California, even if we do end up participating. It is certainty something that is on our radar. How exactly it will affect us right now? We have no idea,” said Waldon.
The program includes college counseling, mentorship and community service that early evidence suggests support greater enrollment, persistence and college completion.