Obama renews push for free community college

President Barack Obama, along with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, renewed his push for free community college during a speech at Macomb Community College in Michigan on Sept. 9.

In July, Del Mar College President Mark Escamilla and Board of Regents Chairman Trey McCampbell met with other community college officials in Washington, D.C., to strategize launching the College Promise plan.

The plan has been stalled in the Republican Congress, but the Obama administration has started “Heads Up America” to rally public support.

“Education is the secret sauce to success in our country,” Obama said. “Across the country people are going back to school. They are making an investment in their future, and an investment in the future of our country.”

On average, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime than a high school graduate, Obama said. Associate degree holders earn $10,000 a year more than high school graduates.

“No kid should be priced out of a degree,” Obama said. “Where you start shouldn’t determine where in life you end up.”

Jill Biden also stressed the importance of college.


President Obama intends to make the first two years of community college free for responsible students.

“Myself, my husband (Joe Biden), the first lady and the president would be nowhere without our education,” said Biden, chairwoman of the College Promise Advisory Board. “We want others to have that same opportunity.”

The plan would be available to students enrolled at least part-time in a community college who maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

“We are helping community colleges team up with business professionals to make college affordable and to offer jobs that are already available in their communities,” Biden said. “We want people to join the movement because education is the key.”

Obama’s plan was inspired by Tennessee Promise, which provides funding for community colleges from federal funding and state lottery dollars to eligible seniors who graduated from a high school in Tennessee.

Officials have not said how much the plan would cost or how it would be funded.

“Nothing is free, not even education. So a program like this will take money,” McCampbell said. “However, (Education Secretary Arne Duncan) made it very clear that it is not about the government covering all the cost, and that there were multiple ways for community colleges to creatively address getting more students in college with free, or reduced tuition.”

According to Heads Up, 40 percent of U.S. adults ages 25-64 have more than a high school diploma.

“I think free two-year college would have a positive effect on Del Mar,” McCampbell said. “It will be great for the students, great for Del Mar College, and a great for employers who are looking for a trained workforce. Win, Win, Win!”

According to Heads Up, the College Promise Advisory Board’s mission is to work closely with seven key sector-based Leadership Committees, together advocating for free community college, as well as degree and certificate completion for responsible students.

“The college leaders are committed to increase access to affordable educational opportunities,” said Claudia Jackson, executive director of strategic communication and government relations for Del Mar. “Reducing the cost, or removing the cost, would open the doors to more opportunities for residents of the region. A free two-year college opportunity would be very beneficial to thousands of residents of the region.”

To find out more about Obama’s plan for free two-year community college, visit headsupamerica.us.

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