With discussions of education and affordable college at the forefront of national debate, Trinity students and faculty are divided on the recent proposal by President Obama regarding community college. Obama announced his plan weeks back before detailing it in the recent State of the Union address. The plan aims to address growing concerns of college tuition alongside the dropping graduation rates compared to other countries.
Following previous statements President Barack Obama outlined his proposal for two years of free community college tuition for students which is subject to approval by Congress.
This plan would provide tuition-free courses for students enrolled in school part-time so long as they maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher and make marked progress towards enrollment in a four-year institution or towards a degree.
In the State of the Union address, on Jan. 20, President Obama noted the success of Tennessee and Chicago in implementing free community college with increased enrollment and graduation rates.
“Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible,” Obama said. “I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”
Obama continued to note how often many students finish college with debt.
“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,” Obama said. “Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”
Currently community colleges enroll more than 6 million students; Obama’s proposal, according to the White House webpage, has set the goals of producing an additional 5 million graduates and seeing America with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Many educators, like Patricia Norman, associate professor of education, are enthusiastic about the plan, seeing the opportunity for free education as a benefit to those offered the chance as well as society.
“In general I’m incredibly supportive; I think all students deserve the opportunity to go onto higher education,” Norman said. “If they don’t have the financial needs to do so, if that’s what’s keeping them from it, then we owe them the opportunity to take advantage of that.”
However, with such a large policy, with the White House estimating a participation of around 9 million with savings of up to $3,800, the cost could come over 60 billion dollars over the course of 10 years, something many individuals are wary about.
“I think that providing more equal access to education for different socioeconomic levels is a good idea but I think that the implications from that are going to be worse,” said Katie Lumpkin, sophomore economics major. “In theory it’s a good idea but I think that it might just incentivize people just to go to community college and not pursue anything beyond that. I’m also worried that we’re already in debt, where is the funding for this coming from?”
To others however, the cost remains a necessary investment for the future of American citizens, especially as the country continues to move towards a more information based economic system.
“It’s worth the cost, mostly because if we are moving into an information economy we need to have students who are skilled at using information and learning that information,” Norman said. “Beyond getting a high school education that’s going to really help them have the skills they need to get into those future jobs.”