Obama proposes plan to provide free community college

President Obama was met with both optimism and skepticism after formally unveiling his proposal for tuition-free community college in his State of the Union address on Jan. 20. This ambitious plan would cost around $60 billion over the next decade.

The president cast higher education as vital to the nation, for both competitiveness and internal success, according to Josh Wyner, director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, in an interview with PBS NewsHour. Wyner argued that carrying out this proposal would boost economic growth and help close the country’s growing wealth gap.

“Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” Obama stated, emphasizing his view on the importance of this proposal.

The tuition-free community college would only be applicable to those willing to work for it. They must be attending school at least halftime, maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA, and be making progress towards a degree.

Due to the high estimated cost, Obama introduced the idea as a necessary cultural shift in order to combat the likely tough odds the proposal will meet in Congress.

The details of the plan involve the federal government covering 75 percent of the average community college cost, with states picking up the remaining quarter.

The benefits of this program are clear — ideally, to provide more students with an opportunity to access higher education and to strength the U.S. workforce.

Many students agree with this. IVCC freshman Emma Lipka agrees that the program would benefit students, saying “more people are likely to go, and even if they don’t transfer on, they have a higher chance of finding a job they like and will succeed at.”

However, the high price tag this proposal introduces conflict over whether this is the best use of funds, and it’s unclear whether a heavily-Republican Congress will approve this plan.

However, Obama stays positive. “I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today,” Obama said. Only time will tell if this plan can come to fruition.