Obama Endorses Free Community College

Is this a joke or is this for real? Because this is totally the best thing ever. I have no words to express how huge this would be if it were to happen. I don’t want to get my hopes up in case it isn’t true. Those who have been following my nation-state series will know why I’m so excited.

At a speech tomorrow in Tennessee, President Obama will announce the most momentous higher education proposal of his presidency — free community college for every American.

Obama teased the proposal in an Air Force One video shot this evening, and the specifics have been released on the White House website. The plan is sweeping in its scope and ambition, and promises to transform debates over public higher education overnight.

Here are the details:

  • Students would be eligible to attend community college for up to two years, completely tuition free.
  • To preserve eligibility they would be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA and enroll on an at least half-time basis.
  • The federal government would allocate three-fourths “of the average cost of community college” to states participating in the program. State and local funding would make up the remainder.
  • Community colleges would be required to offer courses of study that were fully transferrable to…

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14 thoughts on “Obama Endorses Free Community College”

  1. I am a little wary about this because of the kind of college that I work at. I am concerned that this kind of move would have serious implications for 4-year SLACS. But maybe I’m wrong. Could you elaborate on your thoughts about this initiative?

    By the way, something has changed on your blog so that I can’t see it on my phone anymore. Like, only half of the column shows up, so I can’t read the full posts. It started when the snowy background was going and hasn’t stopped. I got on my computer to read your blog tonight because I wondered if you posted about the two-year college free thing, and behold! You did not disappoint! 🙂


    1. I know! I have the same problem!

      People! Help! Have you tried accessing the blog from a phone? Can you see it? Or do you only see half a page like Fie and I do??

      Does anybody know what causes this???

      I will definitely be writing more about this initiative when I find out more. But if it is true, it will save the public university system in this country.


      1. That may be, but it would potentially have really bad implications for the private SLACs. I definitely want to hear more about it, though, and talk about it.

        I showed my hubby the problem on my phone. He said it looks like an HTML issue, not a WordPress issue. (He designs a lot of sites in WordPress.) He said it might be a problem in the page template, but without looking at the HTML, he’s not sure. Maybe switch templates to see if it fixes it? You could always switch back.


        1. Sorry — when I said, “That may be…” I was referring to when you said, “But if it is true, it will save the public university system in this country.”


      2. People! Help! Have you tried accessing the blog from a phone? Can you see it? Or do you only see half a page like Fie and I do??

        Pretty much that’s what happens. Flipping the screen doesn’t help.


      3. I only see half of it. I actually wondered if it had something to do with the snow background. Just googled it, and apparently it uses Flash and is therefore not mobile friendly. I’ll be happy when it’s spring and I can read your blog on my phone again 🙂


    2. Do you mean these colleges?
      I don’t see anyone in this list having a problem. Cost conscious people don’t end up going to SLACs (the whole “college experience” and “contact with professors” thing is big with SLAC goers) and those who would go to free community college first would already have gone to community college and would already go to community college or go to a state university. Of course the SLAC colleges without big endowments will falter like they do now.
      falter further.


      1. Shakti – My college is not on that list, and my students are constantly talking about money and not being able to afford college. That’s partly why they all want As in my classes. I really think I need to work on my non-academic resume.


        1. So: is it that they cannot really afford the SLAC but did not get into less expensive four year schools, and would have gone to a CC if there had been one?


  2. Couple things: Good luck getting to republicans to pass. Slim chances (unless he makes this trade-off in another negotiation) – I am generally conservative but doubt republicans will pass this.

    Secondly, depending how implemented, this may not really make a big difference in cost. Would this be on TOP of pell grants and American Opportunity tax credit? If not, then there really wouldn’t be that much savings. Pell grants already max at either $4700 or $5700 and American opportunity tax credit is $2500. Average community college is 3800 per year, and often as low as $3000. So details matter a ton.

    Thirdly, I massively support the idea of making community colleges more important, but its primarily a cultural and business issue, not monetary. I don’t see this alone really affecting more than say 5-10% of those who go to four year schools right away. Right or wrong (and primarily I would argue highly wrong), the perception are poor and less successful kids go to community college. To be clear, this is NOT by opinion, nor do I think the evidence backs it up,but there is a stigma to this degree and I think a bigger deal would be around the stigma and cultural barriers.


  3. And how does this affect the nation state decline thesis? Is your angle that this is a counter narrative of the decline of the nation state?


  4. Great news but I’m not sure Congress will pass this bill. Also, it requires the cooperation of states, who’ll have to match federal funding, and that’s going to be quite tricky. But jesus, I hope it passes.

    It’ll be interesting to see the same people who oppose minimum wage increases with the ‘want to make more money? Get an education first’ argument, now oppose this bill as well.


  5. Community college was always free in California until the recent/current tuition disasters and is still much cheaper than in the rest of the country, apparently. http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_24492018/californias-low-community-college-fees-face-scrutiny
    I am not aware of this hurting SLACs & don’t see how it would — they won’t look at most of the kind of students who goes to a CC anyway, and those students who go to CCs despite being SLAC qualified tend to have reasons not to move to the SLAC.


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