What Obama's community college proposal could mean for 9 million Americans
While in Tennessee, a state that offers two years of free community college to students, President Obama proposed his own plan for making higher education more accessible to high school graduates.
While Obama said he’d detail more of that plan in his Jan. 20 State of the Union Address, the White House released a fact sheet on the plan, called America’s College Promise. If the proposal passes through the legislature, students could receive free tuition for two years of community college, so long as they attend at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average in their coursework. The report estimated that 9 million students could benefit across 50 states, saving an average of $3,800 a year.
That might not seem like a lot, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 60 percent of community college students work more than 20 hours per week while taking classes. It would take half a year to earn $3,800 for a student working 20 hours a week under the federal minimum wage, and often students have other expenses, like transportation costs, rent, books and school supplies.
Money is a leading factor in whether or not a students completes a degree program. Students from low-income households are more more likely to drop out of college than middle or high-income students for a variety of reasons, including financial. After two years, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 41 percent of community college students transfer to a four-year public institution to finish their degree program. Saving tuition money on community college could mean more money spent on the last two years of higher education.
The president’s proposal does not include how the program would be funded, although it mentions that federal funding would account for three-quarters of funding. The proposal would also have to make its way through the Republican-controlled Congress.