Obama’s Education Plan Announcement for 2015
Millions of American students stand to cash in on a massive tuition bill break in the years ahead, thanks to a recent announcement by U.S. president Barack Obama. Today in Tennessee, Obama is expected to officially propose a new government initiative which would make community college tuition-free for “everyone willing to work for it.” While the universal right to higher education is part of the ethos of some nations, it’s virtually unheard of in the U.S….until now, that is. Read on to learn more about this visionary plan designed to dramatically improve educational opportunities in the land of the free.
The 411 on Obama’s Plan
With funding from both the federal government and participating states, President Obama’s proposal seeks to address the growth of income inequality along with corresponding gaps in equal educational opportunities. Under the plan, both half-time and full-time students would qualify for two years of community college funding, although students would need to maintain a 2.5 grade point average in order to remain eligible. In addition to recent high school graduates, adult learners returning to the classroom would also be eligible for the program.
Three-quarters of the program’s tab would be covered by the federal government with individual states making up the difference. According to White House projections based on the participation of all U.S. states, the program could save as many as nine million students nearly $4,000 a year each.
While no details have yet been released regarding the total expense of the program, all parties are in agreement: it won’t be cheap. In fact, White House officials suggest the program could cost as as much as $60 billion over the next 10 years.
White House administrators have compared the program’s potential to that of the universal high school movement which occurred nearly 100 years ago in the U.S. The initiative has also been identified with the G.I. Bill and the Pell Grant program; the former sent millions of World War II vets to college after the war’s end, while the former currently assists the country’s low-income students.
It’s no coincidence that Mr. Obama has chosen to make this announcement in Tennessee. The program is in part modeled by the “Tennessee Promise,” a free community college tuition initiative currently underway in the Southern state. In its debut academic year, the Tennessee Promise received twice as many applicants as expected, representing a whopping 90 percent of the state’s graduating class of 2015. Supported by the state’s Republican governor, the Tennessee Promise is already credited with making strides in closing the gap by drawing more underrepresented students to enroll in college.
The city of Chicago, meanwhile, is also exploring a new free community college program this year in which public high school grads with grade point averages above 3.0 will receive tuition and fee waivers at city community colleges.
One significant obstacle standing in the way of President Obama’s proposal? Congressional approval, which is far from a simple matter considering the Republican party’s disinclination to spend. White House officials have acknowledged that while quick approval is unlikely, but insist that the proposal’s worth is profound simply in its encouragement of states and educational institutions to commit to investing in high-quality education.
As more and more countries strive to compete in the global marketplace, Obama’s plan is certainly a play by the U.S. to produce an adequate workforce and remain competitive. But it also stands for more than that. At a time when gun control, immigration, and health care issue policies are under constant debate, proponents of the plan suggest that the true path to progress — and higher standards of living for all — lies with education.
Those looking to hear more about the program should tune into the State of the Union address on January 20 when Mr. Obama will share his budget plan for the coming year.