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FRIDAY BUZZ: President Obama Proposes Two Years of Free Community College

January 09, 2015

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​President Obama today outlined an ambitious proposal to make community college tuition-free nationwide in a speech at Knoxville’s Pellissippi State Community College.

The “America’s College Promise” initiative would pay for two years of community college for students who maintain a 2.5 GPA, attend school at least half-time and make “steady progress” toward their degree. Federal funding would cover three-quarters of the cost, and the president is asking states to assume the balance.

The White House has said specific details on the cost and funding will be given in the State of the Union Address Jan. 20 and the president's budget request Feb. 2.

To be eligible, community colleges would have to offer academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities or training programs with high graduation rates that lead to “in-demand degrees and certificates.”

They also must adopt “promising and evidence-based institutional reforms” to improve student outcomes.

The proposal is modeled on Tennessee Promise, the state’s free community college program begun last year by Gov. Bill Haslam. Approximately 50,000 students have already applied to Tennessee Promise, which uses state lottery revenue to pay for two years of community college tuition for any of the state’s high school graduates.

“President Obama has presented an extremely bold proposal, a potential game-changer that could encourage millions more students to consider, apply and enroll in postsecondary education,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad in a statement.

“However, it is hard to predict how a successful state policy like this will translate to the federal stage. There is still much we do not know about the details of this ambitious plan, such as institutional eligibility criteria and the requirements that would be imposed on states that want to participate. But we look forward to working with the Obama administration and Congress to find the best and most effective ways to dramatically boost higher education access and completion rates, especially among low- and lower-middle-income students.”

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