A new proposal unveiled by President Obama would make two years of a community college education "free" for all those who maintain a certain grade-point average.
The plan was unveiled in a video statement by the president on Thursday and he will discuss the plan more broadly during a public appearance in Tennessee on Friday.
"Put simply, what I'd like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it," the president said in the video.
According to the White House, the plan would save the average full-time student $3,800 dollars a year in tuition fees, making a community college education available and affordable to roughly 9 million students each year.
In language included in a fact-sheet about the program, the adminstration stated:
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Nearly a century ago, a movement that made high school widely available helped lead to rapid growth in the education and skills training of Americans, driving decades of economic growth and prosperity. America thrived in the 20th century in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world. But other nations have matched or exceeded the secret to our success. Today, more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career.
The White House fact-sheet provides the most detailed explanation of program, but the basics of the plan would consist of three parts: 1) Students would be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA or above to qualify; 2) Participating community colleges would have to make occupational training central to their programs and guarantee academic credits would be transferrable to four-year colleges and universities; and 3) The federal government would pay three-fourths of the costs to institute and maintain the plan, while states would cover the remaining twenty-five percent.
Quoted by the Associated Press, David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, called the plan an "extraordinary" investment and said the essence of the proposal is to reduce the cost of attending community college and "that is a concept that we heartily endorse."
Tuition-free higher education has long been an unrealized goal of progressives in the United States, which runs way behind other highly-industrialized nations, such as those in Europe, which have well-established public university systems which are highly, if not totally, subsidized and funded by taxpayers.
Despite the clear benefits of free higher-education, much of the initial reaction to Obama's proposal by the mainstream press was dismissive that the plan has any hope given the current state of affairs in Washington. As coverage by ABC News opined, "Conversation starter? Definitely. Political possibility? Not any time soon."