Free Community Colleges?

By Wiha Powell

“Forty percent of our college students choose community college,”… “Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.” –President Obama

In one of the best speeches of his presidency, President Obama proposed two free years of community college for everyone during last month’s State of the Union address. This proposal comes as the knight in shining armor for millions of high school graduates and other Americans who seek the opportunity to attend college.

The president’s proposal was tailored after “Tennessee Promise,” which offers two years of free-tuition to community college or technical school for Tennessee high school graduates. The program is a last-dollar scholarship, which covers costs that are not covered by Pell Grants or other federal programs. The president’s proposal comes at time when most jobs require applicants to have at least some college education or credits.

The word “free” is always a crowd pleaser. Therefore, it is not hard to figure out why there is so much excitement around the president’s proposal. However, the only downfall is that community colleges have the reputation of having low standards, low graduation rates and diplomas that are worthless in the marketplace. Furthermore, a majority of the students that attend community colleges are high school students unprepared for university or who cannot afford to attend university. But on the bright side, community colleges do succeed under such touch conditions. Moreover, if such proposal was to pass, dramatic improvement to the curricula and graduation rate is needed.

Having free community college will be a game changer especially for low and middle class families. Today, many understand the importance of a college education. This was clear during the Great Recession. Unemployment among college-educated individuals was relatively low compared to people with only a high school diploma. This program can offer the opportunity for many young people to step into a college classroom without worrying about cost, which can result in a college degree becoming the norm in our society.

Offering the first two years of community college for free is a bold step. The president, our leaders and the nation should capitalize on such plan. It attracts young people back to the education system and creates a system that will have America winning again in the global economy.

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