America’s College Promise: The Basics on the President’s Proposal for Two Years of Free Community College

Last week, President Obama proposed a new plan to offer millions of students around the country free community college tuition.   According to the White House Fact Sheet, the plan, which will require Congressional approval, will help Americans “meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career.”

The plan for a universal and free two years relies on the federal government, states, community colleges and students to fulfil certain obligations:

  • The federal government would pay for around three-quarters of tuition costs.
  • States that decided to participate in the program would cover the remaining tuition, and would also be responsible for coordinating efforts between high schools, community colleges and four-year institutions to reduce the need for repeated and/or remedial courses.
  • Community colleges would have to adopt programs to improve retention and completion (more students have to stay enrolled AND finish).  Additionally, the program will only cover academic programs that transfer to local four-year institutions and occupational training programs with high graduation rates and high employer demand.
  • Students who receive free tuition would have to attend half-time or more, maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA, and progress toward completion.

All the details of the plan have not been released, and there are many questions about its cost and implementation and even whether or not such a plan has the backing of Congress to become reality.  It’s expected that President Obama will talk more about the plan in his State of the Union address and that costs will be included in his 2016 budget plan.

We’ll be looking at the topic again from different angles, so check back on the blog for more looks at the issue.   In the meantime, here’s the video posted on Facebook the night before the plan was outlined in Tennessee.

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