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Obama proposes financial reform with free community college tuition

Joylyn Yang, Staff Reporter

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On Jan. 8, President Obama proposed a plan that would make two years of community college completely free. To be eligible for free community college tuition, students would be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA as well as attend school at least part time. If enacted, Obama’s proposal, America’s College Promise, could benefit as many as nine million students each year, according to “The New York Times.”

“There are many positive possibilities in this program,” Daniel Miller, College Career Counselor, said. “This unprecedented, amazing opportunity would raise the profile of community colleges, as well as save tuition money for students and families. When fully implemented, the plan could save a full-time community college student an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.”

Under the proposal, the federal government would cover 75 percent of the average cost of community college. The plan would require states to pick up the remaining quarter of the tab and additionally adopt reforms outlined by the White House, including providing more advising and student support services on community college campuses.

Although Obama’s proposal can make higher education more available to some students, there has been controversy about the possible flaws.

“While this plan would make community college more enticing, the fact that it would be completely free comes with a few deficiencies,” said Sam Yi, College of Lake County student. “Especially with most community schools accepting almost every student, it could lead to too many students receiving the benefits of Obama’s plan.”

Obama’s plan would allow for more people to be able to get an education; however, the influx of students would lead to the potential crowding of schools.

The federal money to fund the new idea would come by increasing capital-gains and taxes for high-income households, closing a trust-fund loophole and charging a fee to financial firms that borrow heavily. The increase in taxes may cause objections from higher income households.

As stated in the budget documents released by the White House, students from families that earn more than $200,000 per year would not be eligible for free tuition. This may affect some of the program’s appeal to the upper-middle-class voters, according to “Slate”.

Despite these obstacles, the president’s proposal opens the door to a broader discussion of a comprehensive strategy for community colleges that emphasize affordability, according to “Time” magazine.

“This new plan could serve as an excellent opportunity for those concerned with college affordability who may otherwise believe college is out of reach for them financially and also those who may not be familiar with the value and educational edge a community college education can afford,” said Martica Davis, College of Lake County Financial Aid Specialist.

America’s College Promise would cover certificate programs as well as courses that lead to an associate degree or could be transferred toward a bachelor’s degree.

The longevity of this plan, if it is implemented, will likely depend on a variety of factors such as funding, implementation and student outcomes, according to Davis.

While it is too early to predict the fruition of America’s College Promise, many feel that the plan does offer an unprecedented opportunity.

“Ultimately, the program would increase student interest in the possibility of community college, especially since the two years of education would be free. I’m definitely in favor of it,” Miller said.

Overall, despite the ambitions of the new proposal, there are still questions about how many states and students will take advantage of it. Whether the initiative will garner enough support to be passed by Congress has not yet been decided. It may be years until the proposal is enacted.

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