Free community college for working students?

President Barack Obama said to the nation in his State of the Union on Jan. 20, “In a 21st century economy that awards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game and do more. That is why I am sending Congress this bold new plan to lower the costs of community college to zero.” 

The proposal for Americans to have free access to community college was announced on Jan. 8 in a White House video. 

Students will still be responsible to pay for living expenses, fees, textbooks and transportation, but the proposal is intended to alleviate students from the financial burden of college.

The proposal would mean in order for community college to be “free” taxes will have to be increased in order to pay for all of students’ tuition costs. Obama wants community college to be more affordable and accessible to students that don’t have much money but still want to pursue their dreams and goals. 

Obama said to the nation in his State of Union, “I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.” 

Obama’s proposal will require all Americans to do their part to help students have free tuition in the community colleges. 

States must invest more in higher education and training for students. 

Lastly, the students must take responsibility for their education by receiving a 2.5 GPA or higher and staying on track to graduate. 

“I like [Obama’s] proposal but what aggravates me is [that] the GPA in order to have the free tuition is a 2.5. I think [that GPA] is low especially to get free tuition in community college,” said Liridona Leti, a transfer student from College of the Desert. “If [Obama] raised up [the GPA requirement] to at least a 3.0 that would be awesome but other than that, that’s my only complaint I have about that.” 

Since taking office, Obama has taken steps to expand federal support to help more students afford college, while calling for a shared responsibility in tackling rising college costs. 

 Edie Brown, an adviser and program coordinator, was a transfer student and recognizes how in the last 30 to 40 years, the cost of community college has risen significantly. 

“It was tough because I wasn’t sure what I wanted and when I did take [community college] seriously, the cost had risen,” said Brown. “I was paying less when I went to graduate school than the SSU undergraduates students had to pay which I thought it was odd,” 

Obama has been raised the maximum of Pell Grant award, heightened tax credits for education, making more efficient loans, grants and programs for students.  

The costs of average community college tuition are about $3,347 and costs of average public college tuition are roughly $9,139 for undergraduates according to the College Board. 

Students who earn two-year degrees often have less money to pay off from tuition and fees than students who earn four-year degrees, but the return on investment of a four-year degree greatly outweighs that of a two-year degree. 

The feedback the bill has received by Americans has been primarily positive. Though many Americans oppose the bill because of the increased taxes it would pose on the nation. 

“The fact that [Obama] wants community college to be free everywhere is a very big deal. Community colleges are a prime place for people who are reentry workers to re-educate themselves on different sectors of the economy,” said Anthony Gallino, president of Associated Students.

Gallino sees community college as a great opportunity for the U.S. to accomplish structural adjustments in the economy to open up new sectors. He also believes from a political standpoint, free community college is a good opportunity to improve the economy and something that should have bipartisan support. 

Some people doubt that the legislation will be passed by Congress because the price of this proposal is roughly $60 billion over 10 years.