Obama Proposes Plan for Free Community College

The Student Government Association’s College Advocates Supporting Higher Education (CA$H) Committee raises awareness about higher education issues that directly impact us all, especially those that affect our tuition. Every other week we’ll discuss a different issue facing higher education.

President Barack Obama recently proposed a plan to offer free community college to qualifying students. The program is designed to assist low-income students who otherwise would be unable to afford college. Specifically, the plan applies to any student that maintains a 2.5 GPA while attending a two-year college. These colleges must either offer credits that transfer to four-year colleges or provide vocational training. In addition, two-year colleges must provide additional academic advisement and student support services. Overall, this program will cost about $60 billion over each decade, with the federal government covering 75 percent and each state paying the remaining 25 percent.

As students at Ramapo College, a four-year institution, this program could have a direct impact on our school. If this plan is approved, many students who would normally attend a four-year institution during their first and second years may opt to attend community college for two years prior to transferring.  Thus, four-year institutions may experience less continuity, as many students transfer in prior to their junior year, rather than start at four-year institutions as first-year students.

In addition, the program requires the community colleges to offer credits that transfer to four-year institutions. In other words, we may experience changed academic programs, as four-year institutions adjust course equivalencies and prerequisites.

Despite these enrollment difficulties, this program still offers wonderful opportunities for many students. More students will be able to acquire bachelor’s degrees, as they only would need to pay for two years of schooling at four-year institutions. Overall, the potential decrease in first-year enrollment, coupled with increasing transfer enrollment may cause little change in the number of students at four-year institutions; however, the demographics of four-year institutions may shift toward an increase in juniors and seniors, rather than a relatively equal distribution of students throughout the four classes.

What are your feelings on Obama’s plan for free community college?  If you feel passionate about college access, share your opinion with your political representative and make sure to vote in future elections. Also, please attend Higher Education Awareness Week from February 23-27 to learn more about pressing issues facing colleges and universities.