Obama’s Community College Proposal

Matthew Carey, Journalist

Community College, located in northern Massachusetts

The college search is a very grueling and stressful process. You encounter so many questions and thoughts throughout the long journey. However, a private university or state school is not for everybody. “40 percent of our our college students choose community college,” says President Obama. Community college is a great way to save money and remain close to home. If you already have a direction and job you intend to pursue, it allows for you to work and make gains in that profession while attending school.

Local community colleges appeal to both the young and old. You could just be starting out, looking to move into a better job, or be a veteran returning from overseas. This kind of  a college is cost effective and appealing to people of all backgrounds. Realistically, with the climbing cost of tuition prices, a 4-year private or state school it is almost impossible to afford without some sort of loan. More and more students are coming out of college with a debt that will hang on their shoulders for a number of years.

President Obama has made the proposal for making community college free. Tuition would be provided to those who maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and making steady progress towards earning a degree or transferring on to a 4-year institution. This proposal also stated that the federal government would cover 75 percent of the expenses and further plans would push for the state to pay for the remaining 25 percent. He felt that this new idea would boost the college graduation rates and lift more people into the middle class.

Unfortunately, reducing costs for students on its own is unlikely to significantly increase the number of students who finish degrees. “Of all of the students who enrolled in public community college for the first time in the fall of 2003, only one-quarter earned any kind of certificate or associates degree within six years. Another 12% earned a bachelor’s degree within that six-year period.” If we are looking to improve the outcome of college education, we need to, “Make college more affordable…, and make the reforms to ensure community college students can succeed in their courses, complete their programs, and graduate within a reasonable amount of time.”

This ambitious concept would be great in a utopian society. Unfortunately, the United States is not perfect. “The White House estimates that the free tuition program would cost $6 billion a year.” This proposal will only pile on more debt and add to an already astronomical problem. Money is not the only issue with this idea. This undercuts the more innovative educational programs, set up for students to succeed in the workforce. This implement seems to provide an easier way into the job market. Although there are some high-performing community colleges, with incredible stories of success for convincing students, the overall picture of success at two-year community colleges is viewed as discouraging. According to the College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. “Only 22% of students graduate within three years, and 28% graduate within four. More telling, 80% of students say they want a bachelor’s degree or higher, and yet only 20% of these students transfer to a four-year institution within five years.”