By: Novpreet Bajwa
Obama’s recent proposal which would make community colleges tuition free for all students has raised doubts among critics who wonder how the proposal will be funded if and when it will be implemented.
President Obama revealed his grandiose plan on Friday November 9, 2014 in Tennessee where the inspiration for his proposal came from. The proposal, America’s College Promise, is based on the Tennessee Promise program that was started by Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Haslam. This program acquires funding from state lottery funds which will be applied towards the remaining tuitions of students that grants can’t cover. Although this program has attracted more than 57,000 high school students, it is still new given the fact that it will officially start in fall of 2015, so the performance rate is obviously still unknown.
Like Haslam’s program, America’s College Promise aims at giving funds to community colleges and their students who have to meet certain criteria set by the federal government. For starters, students have to uphold a 2.5 GPA and be enrolled in school half-time. The funds that will be provided for students are estimated to save them $3,800 in tuitions per year. Also, another proposal that is associated with the community college promise aims to provide funding for students who go to technical schools.
Although the proposals mentioned above sounds ambitious and progressive, one question remains to be answered: how will these proposals be funded?
According to the White House website, the federal government will give 75% of the funds while the rest will be picked up by the states. The states have the option not to participate if they don’t want to. Obama didn’t reveal any actual numbers that will show us what the budget for this proposal would be but it is estimated to cost $60 billion for 10 years, a huge undertaking for the federal government.
Because of this large financial sum, many critics have doubts as to who will actually foot the bill for this proposal. Given that most of the funding will come from the state and federal government, the paying of the bill might come down to the tax payers.
Besides the budget concern, many critics point out because every student will be qualified for this program, the ones that need this financial aid the most might not be able to get it. Thus, the uneven distribution might defeat the purpose of giving every student an equal chance at education. Another concern is that the focus on community colleges might affect the enrollment rates of 4-year colleges.
The main reason for Obama’s proposal is to increase America’s education rate so it can compete successfully with other nations. But if this is the case, then this program might be a disadvantage. The requirements for it will not help improve students’ education if everyone is just expected to perform the minimum. Given that this program will pay all the students’ tuitions, the requirement should have the students be enrolled in school full-time, not just half-time. Moreover, the GPA requirement, 2.5, will not fare well when the students are applying to a 4-year college. Many 4-year institutions require 3.0 or higher GPA just for applying to the college. Unless Obama’s plan is to make the 4-year colleges lower their requirements, this will hinder the students in the long run.
Therefore, Obama’s proposal is based on faith and hope rather than realistic goals. Only time will tell how this proposal will play out as Obama is expected to expand on his explanation of it at his State of Union address on January 20th in front of Congress.