Obama Plans for Free Community College

President Barack Obama hopes to implement "America's College Promise," a program that will make community college free for students.


Graphic by Lauren Ponzetti

President Barack Obama announced on Jan. 9 his proposal to make community college free and universal for hard working students nationwide. This proposal includes two tuition-free years at a community college for any student. This proposal, “America’s College Promise,” is based off of “Tennessee Promise,” a last-dollar scholarship that provides students with mentors who will help them during the college application process. This scholarship program also covers college costs not met from the Federal Pell Grant, Tennessee Student Assistance Award and Tennessee HOPE Scholarship.

Obama hopes to implement, “two years of community college to responsible students who are willing to work for it. Students who have to do their part by keeping their grades up.” Students in today’s society are hounded and overwhelmed each day with the stress of college, and those who put in hard work would more than likely have it paid off if this initiative were put in place. Anyone can get the two years of tuition free community college as long as they maintain a 2.5 grade point average and attend school at least half-time.

This program would be funded by taxpayers and could save an estimated 9 million people nationwide about $3800 in college costs, according to administration officials.

Antioch Community High School junior Bella Gigliotti said, “I don’t think it’s fair [for all taxpayers to fund this program] because not everyone is utilizing the program.”

Although this program targets high school students, people of any age would be eligible.

Gigliotti said, “[I think President Obama’s goal is] theoretical. I feel like there is no way they would be able to make it 100 percent free. It is more realistic to only offer two years of community college free, but still not completely realistic.”

The program is estimated to cost about $6 billion a year, which is a small portion of the $3.5 trillion federal budget.

This program is intended to be similar to K-12 schooling that most Americans get for free. It is possible that if this program became a reality, more students would opt for community college over four-year universities.

Gigliotti said, “I think [more students would go to a community college apposed to four-year university] because one major concern for a lot of people is cost, so if it were free, I feel like a lot of people would go for their first two years and then go to a four year college for the last two.”

It is unclear at this time if this proposition could become a reality or if it is just a theoretical goal, but it is something to be considered. A 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that only 69.5 percent of students go on to colleges or universities after high school, and with this initiative, that number could increase greatly if the cost of tuition was cut out of the picture altogether.