President Obama Proposes Free Tuition for Community Colleges!

From the White House website: 

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete -- by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades' worth of student debt.

The numbers:

If all 50 states choose to implement the President's new community college proposal, it could:

  • Save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average
  • Benefit roughly 9 million students each year

Under President Obama's new proposal, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor's degree, or earn the technical skills needed in the workforce -- all at no cost to themMore details:

What are your thoughts and feelings about this if the proposal ends up being adopted and implemented?

~ Priyanka Sharma
SME, Postsecondary Completion  




Hi, Priyanka -

I just heard this story on NPR on my way into school today, so your post is perfect timing for me.  I think this is an excellent conversation starter, and has a lot of potential to increase the education levels and employability of America's graduates.  The biggest obstacle that I think many states will encounter is the cost of providing two additional years of free, public education.  To reduce this burden on states, I believe many will have to look more closely at Career and Technical Education (CTE) and dual enrollment programs.

As someone who straddles the worlds of secondary and post-secondary education, I think that there's a lot we can do to make high schools better training grounds for post-secondary education.  We need to develop more robust CTE programs, such as those in many European countries, where students can earn their diploma and industry certifications at the same time.  New York state's BOCES model: is a great example from here in the U.S.  

Early colleges are another opportunity for students on a four year degree trajectory to complete their first two years of college level coursework as high school upperclassmen, through dual enrollment.  There are strong examples of early colleges across the U.S., highlighted by Jobs for the Future 

In order to be fiscally viable for many states, these two approaches to preparing secondary students for success will have to figure into states' implementation of the President's community college proposal. 

Does anyone else have thoughts on how we can work to make this proposal financially viable for states' already stretched budgets?



    I just wanted to bring up an issue that dual enrollment can cause with financial aid.  There is a timer that is used for post-secondary completion and financial aid - dual enrollment can start that timer.  You'd probably want to check with your local registrar, but it came up in one of our CTE conferences.


I do like the idea for a fee free college education. I just wonder how is going to be funded?

Hi Michael, I liked your post. I agree other avenues to postsecondary education will need to be explored prior to students exiting high school. Currently, I am working at a technical college with adult education students that are participating in the Accelerated Opportunity program under the JFF foundation. The program allow students that are working on completing their GED to enroll in a credit bearing course simultaneously at no expense to the student. We have seen an increase in postsecondary education among first generational students as well as minority students. Since the program began in July 2014, five student have completed their GED and most of them have completed at least one semester of college. I totally agree dual enrollment would definite be a good option to explore.