President Obama announced in a video from inside Air Force One that he plans to propose making the first two years of community college free for students who are “willing to work for it.”
In the video, Obama said he would be laying out the details of his proposal while in Tennessee this weekend, where a similar program already exists. The Tennessee Promise program, created by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, offers free community college tuition for two years for any high school graduate in the state.
Obama’s proposal, reportedly titled “America’s College Promise,” would apply to any student with at least a C+ average that attends school at least half-time. “What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said in Thursday’s video. “It’s something we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”
The proposal, if enacted, would benefit nine million students each year and save them an average of $3,800 in tuition costs. For a community college to be eligible, it must offer fully transferable credits to four-year colleges and universities or “training programs with high graduation rates that lead to in-demand degrees and certificates,” according to Politico.
Before the proposal can become a reality, of course, Obama will have to seek approval from Congress. “I hope we’ve got the chance to make sure that Congress gets behind these kinds of efforts to make sure that even as we rebound and grow in 2015, that it benefits everybody and not just some,” the President said.
Whether or not Congress would support the program remains to be seen, however, as Republicans have already expressed skepticism because it would cost money for states.
“With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan,” Cory Fritz, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said. Tennesse Republican Diane Black called the proposal a “top-down federal program that will ask already cash-strapped states to help pick up the tab.”