On Jan. 8, President Obama announced a plan to make the first two years of community college (CC) free for students in America who maintain a 2.5 GPA at their CC. This is based off a similar program already in place in Tennessee, called Tennessee Promise, which will begin with the graduating class of 2015. Participating states will offer 25 percent of the total funding to all students attending a community college and the federal government will providing the rest.
The Editorial Board looks forward to the prospect of free CC, and believes that if it is implemented correctly, this will be a great opportunity for millions of students in the country to have access to higher education. Amidst the UC tuition increases that were approved last year, it is refreshing to see that the federal government is considering taking action in helping students pay for college.
We recognize the potential benefits of this plan. With the first two years of CC free, students could save up to $3,800 in fees every year, lifting a significant burden of debt. This will also help more students across the country pursue a degree that they otherwise may not have been able to.
However, while this idea appears great in theory, we are worried about whether or not it will succeed in practice. It is still unclear how this plan will be implemented and where exactly the money from the state and federal government will come from. If there was a surplus of funds available for education, why was UC tuition raised so recently?
Along with that, the effect that this plan will have on overcrowding within colleges should be taken into account. As Obama said in his speech, if students who are willing to work hard to meet the GPA requirement have the option to get two years of college for free, they will most likely take advantage of that. Because of this, it seems like a high possibility that many community colleges across the country will become over-enrolled and not be able to provide enough resources to their students. Tennessee community colleges are already preparing for the much higher levels of enrollment. UCs and CSUs are already impacted, and it seems possible that this plan will create a similar issue in community colleges and then lead to an overabundance of transfers in four-year universities.
With that being said, we are excited and hopeful that this plan will be implemented well, and will be advantageous for the millions of students in America who cannot afford to go straight to a four-year university out of high school. To see that the federal government is considering college students and is trying to take action to reduce the hardships of student debt is a step in the right direction. Placing value in our education helps validate our experiences and create a smarter America.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu