President Obama’s new program plans to supply two free years of community college to anyone willing to work for it, and it has caused quite the commotion. The plan was first revealed in a video on January 8, and it quickly became more popular than any of the 2000 other videos on the president’s website. The public’s response is warranted, as this proposal is a significant step in the right direction for America’s upcoming generations.
The program sounds too good to be true, and many skeptics are understandably quick to question who will pay the tuition for “free” college. The federal government would pay for 75% of the program, and the states would finance the other quarter of the costs. The 25% required of the states amounts to total payments of 60 billion dollars over 10 years, approximately 6 billion dollars annually.
Those numbers appear intimidating on the surface, but are far less menacing when put in context. This program costs less than five percent of the amount America spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Annually, it costs just half of the 13 billion dollar price tag for a Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier. At what point did we decide that aircraft carriers and unnecessary wars were more important than educating the future of America?
Not to mention, Tennessee, a Republican-led state, as well as the Democratically-led Chicago, successfully instituted this system already. In fact, 90% of high school seniors in Tennessee are currently enrolled in their state’s version of the program.
The new plan was originally designed by a Republican governor, yet the Republican Congress will undoubtedly reject it, denying The President a victory and electing to spend more money on oil wars than on students. The plan will not pass, but nonetheless, the buzz it has generated may inspire similar proposals in the future.
Only students who have the incentive and drive to succeed in higher education will complete the program. The president aims to accomplish this by requiring that participants work for their education. All of the program’s participants must attend school at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) or better, and continuously make progress towards a degree.
The colleges must also do their part to offer academic programs that allow students to fully transfer to job training programs or four-year colleges with higher graduation rates. The result would be a surge in middle and lower class people, who otherwise lack the means to attend college, earning the degrees and certificates sought by contemporary employers.
Even amidst the Great Recession in 2008, unemployment was relatively low for college-educated adults. Young Americans understand that without a college education, they are highly vulnerable in today’s global economy, a sentiment which grows more evident with each passing year. According to Georgetown University, post-secondary training will be a requirement for two thirds of all jobs by 2020. In short, education is more necessary now than ever, and this program is a timely response to that growing importance.
(Alex Doe ’16, News Editor)