Obama proposes making community college nearly free for millions

09 Jan 2015


In a bid to bring a dramatic expansion of access to higher education, President Obama yesterday proposed making community college virtually free for millions of high school graduates, a potential boon for California's system, the largest in the nation.

The federal government would bear 75 per cent of the costs of community college with the states expected to pick up the rest, under the proposal.

According to White House officials, the proposal would be included in the 2016 federal budget and require congressional approval.

"What I'd like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it," Obama said in a video filmed on Air Force One and posted on Facebook yesterday.

The video came ahead of the president's planned visit today to a community college and technical centre in Knoxville, Tennesse, as part of a trip designed to preview his policy plans for 2015.

Hailing the initiative, California officials said federal dollars would help the state's two-year community college system recover from the residual impact of the 2008 recession. The system had 2.1 million students on rolls across 112 campuses.

"Our first reaction is that we are very excited about the president's plan to provide more opportunities for students to attend community colleges," said Brice W Harris, California Community Colleges chancellor, in a statement.

"Community colleges are the primary access point to higher education in California and the nation, and our economy is increasingly requiring college-educated workers. We look forward to working with the White House as the proposal takes shape."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that White House officials declined to discuss how much th programmed would cost or how it would be financed.

The report said it would likely be expensive and likely a tough sell to a Republican Congress wary of spending money, especially on a proposal from the White House.

''With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan,'' said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John A Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

Obama's advisers however, acknowledged yesterday that the programme's goals would not be achieved quickly. The president, however, sounding more upbeat said in the video: ''It's something that we can accomplish, and it's something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world.''

According to White House officials, the proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintained a 2.5 grade point average - about a C-plus - and who ''make steady progress toward completing a programme.''

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