Last week, 9th of January, Obama introduced his new plan for free community college during his visit to Tennessee. Obama reportedly commented on this: “For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class. I want to make it free.”
A video preview to the initiative was posted earlier on the White House Facebook page.
While all the financial details are not clear yet, the plan is indeed ambitious and is reported to cost approximately 60 billion dollars over 10 years – the key idea is that federal funds would cover 3/4 and state funds the remaining part. The proposal is that free tuition would be conditional – students would be expected to maintain a 2,5 GPA, be minimum part-time students and assure progression through their studies.
According to the American Associaytion of Community Colleges, there are over 1100 community colleges in the US, catering to nearly 13 million students (2012), representing almost half of all the undergraduate students in the US. 60% of the students are part time, and many work aside their studies. About one third of the students are first generation to attend college. In principle the sector has already been known for relatively lower tuition levels than one would find in the universities. The degrees awarded are associate degrees and various certificates. While many of the students already receive various kinds of state and federal financial aid, nearly 30% of the revenues for the institutions come from tuition fees.