Proposed tuition legislation to cut cost of community college

Miranda Febus, Editor

President Barack Obama proposed two free years of community college for every student willing to keep up his or her grades on January 8. “Today I’m announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America…I want to bring it down to zero. I want to make it free,” Obama announced during a speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee.

During the two years, the federal government will cover up to 75 percent of the costs per student and the state government will be responsible for 25 percent of the remaining charges.

The program could ultimately cost an estimated 60 billion dollars over 10 years. The free tuition, however, would only be offered to those who attend community college as at least half time students and maintain a 2.5 grade point average or better. Community college will be “free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” Obama stated.

According to Greg Jaffe, a reporter for The Washington Post, the president has estimated that over nine million students could benefit from free community college if every state agrees to participate. Furthermore, according to Nicholas Wyman of Quartz, an online news outlet, a student who participates in this program could potentially save up to 3,800 dollars.

Wyman continued to note that student loan debt contributes to six percent of America’s overall national debt. “The average 4-year college graduate [leaves] school saddled with $30,000 in debt,” he wrote. Wyman further reported that college tuition has increased over 1,000 percent within the past 40 years.

President Obama believes that if students have the opportunity to receive a college education, the economy will essentially improve. “Right now, over 9.1 million Americans are unemployed with millions of others underemployed. Yet at the same time, 4.8 million jobs remain unfilled, because there simply isn’t a big enough pool of applicants who possess the right…skills to do the work companies need,” Wyman reported. Free community college will give people the opportunity to gain the skills they need to fill open jobs.

While many agree that this legislation would relieve the dent in the unemployment rate, others argue that the proposal would harm the economy. The federal and state government will likely get the college tuition money from the people’s taxes, so in order to cover the costs, taxes may rise.

Math teacher Mrs. Ferris expressed her opinion on the possibility of free community college. “I don’t think that the entire American population should have more taxes on them just to benefit a small amount of people,” she said. For instance, this legislation will affect every tax-paying citizen but will not benefit a person with young children or no children at all, she noted. These people should not be taxed for something that may not benefit them in the long run.

Nevertheless, Wyman concluded by noting that if these students take advantage of the opportunity to receive a free education for two years and fill open jobs, the economy will ultimately improve. Perhaps an increase in taxes is a small price to pay for the ultimate vision Obama has imagined with free community college.