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Obama Proposes Plan To Make Community College Free For Everyone

National News Tribune News Service

Obama Proposes Plan To Make Community College Free For Everyone

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US President Barack Obama waves from Air Force One prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, January 7, 2015

By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama rolled out a new plan Thursday to make two years of community college free, or nearly so, for millions of students across the country, a major investment that the White House cast as changing the face of higher education.

The program, inspired by new initiatives in Tennessee and Chicago, could benefit up to 9 million students, advisers said. At its heart is dedicated federal funding to cover 75 percent of tuition, with the states picking up the rest of the tab.

“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,” Obama said in a video filmed on Air Force One and posted Thursday on Facebook, ahead of his planned visit Friday to a community college and technical center in Knoxville, Tenn., as part of a trip designed to preview his policy plans for 2015.

White House advisers declined to say how much the proposal would cost or how the administration planned to pay for it, but experts said such a venture could cost the federal government tens of billions of dollars.

The investment would make two years of college “the norm,” policy adviser Cecelia Munoz said, a disruption of traditional higher education that comes as average tuition at a public four-year college has gone up more than 250 percent over the last three decades, according to government figures.

The community college proposal echoes one of Obama’s favorite themes: empowering the middle class through education and opportunity. He sees the decline in state funding for higher education as a major barrier to those aspiring to the middle class.

Obama’s proposal would make two years of community college “as free as high school for responsible students,” Munoz told reporters, saving a full-time community college student an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. Obama also plans to propose a new fund to pay for high-quality technical training programs.

In the Tennessee program, students can enroll at any of the state’s 27 colleges of applied technology, community colleges or four-year public universities offering an associate’s degree.

To get states to make their own version of that program, Obama would have to win congressional approval for the federal investment.

“Anything involving more money to pay for things is going to be difficult in this Congress,” said Ben Miller, a senior education policy analyst at the New America Foundation. “Increasing investments in higher education are just hard to find.”

Still, Munoz noted, Tennessee’s program is already in place in a state with a Republican governor.

“This is a proposal with bipartisan appeal,” she said.

So far, Obama’s efforts to reduce the cost of college have been meager. He has tried to tie financial aid to college performance and urged states to take performance into consideration when distributing funds to their public colleges. He has also raised by $1,000 the maximum Pell Grant award for working-class and middle-class families and changed the student loan system to cut out subsidies to banks providing college loans.

For those who want to attend a two-year college, the costs are not nearly as daunting as a four-year university.

This school year, for example, the average published tuition and fee prices for in-state students at public four-year institutions range from $4,646 in Wyoming and $6,138 in Alaska to $14,419 in Vermont and $14,712 in New Hampshire, according to the College Board.

The comparable community colleges are $2,719 in Wyoming and $4,064 in Alaska to $7,320 in Vermont and $6,500 in New Hampshire.

White House policy staffers say the prospect of full coverage would make a significant difference over the course of a four-year education for those who decided to spend the first two years at a community college.

The effect on students’ ambition would be another benefit, Miller said.

“There’s a clarity of message that would be good for students,” he said. “We see right now that so many students and families really don’t have a great sense of how much college is going to cost. They dramatically overestimate.

“If you think in sixth grade, ‘I don’t have any hope of going to college,’ that’s discouraging,” he said. “You may conclude there’s no point in trying.”

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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72 Comments

  1. Wrily January 10, 2015

    The high price of college tuition may need addressing, but is it the biggest problem facing this country? Would addressing that problem fix anything other than that one problem?

    How about we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. We all know it needs doing and the benefits of doing so would be mulitple. Hundreds of thousands of jobs created almost immediately. Those jobs would reduce the unemployment rolls and increase the taxpayer rolls. It would put upward pressure on wages as fewer people applied for those minimum wage dead-end jobs. It would put downward pressure on college tuition as fewer people applied for admissions. Not to mention savings for business on transportaion costs, or saving on vehicle maintenace costs, or increased revenues from tourism . . .

    The list could go on, but maybe it’s better to narrow our focus to the high cost of tuition.

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila January 10, 2015

      There are many issues that need to be addressed, but since we cannot solve them all at once, we must pick and choose dependent on how critical they are to our society and our country. Education ranks very high in the list of priorities.

      Reply
      1. Wrily January 11, 2015

        I stand by my analysis that, compared to free tuition, rebuilding our infrastructure would provide more benefit for more people in a shorter amount of time.

        Reply
        1. Dominick Vila January 11, 2015

          Both initiatives are of critical importance. Investment in infrastructure is critical, not only as a tool to create employment, but to modernize our infrastructure and make us more competitive. That is the reason President Obama proposed investment in infrastructure during the Great Recession, and continues to push for it.
          Investment in education is part of a long term strategy that cannot be ignored.
          If we can waste $1T “rebuilding” what we destroyed in Iraq, if we can waste billions of tax payers monies giving subsidies to multi millionaires and corporations, and allowing the wealthiest among us to stash their loot in overseas tax shelters to avoid paying Uncle Sam their fair share, we can afford to invest in infrastructure and help our young get the education they need to succeed.

          Reply
          1. Wrily January 11, 2015

            I agree, we can afford to do both.
            I have not heard the president take the bully pulpit in favor of rebuilding our infrastructure.
            And, for that reason I am disappointed with his public push on the tuition issue.

            Reply
          2. Dominick Vila January 11, 2015

            He tried hard about 4 years ago, and was ignored and ridiculed. He has mentioned several times since then. I think he should make these two issues, and maybe the inequality issue, the centerpiece of his agenda during the next two years.

            Reply
        2. NoNumberNow January 12, 2015

          To rebuild our infrastructure means that the government has to back off regulating the minutiae of our business lives. Does a health food store really need a USDA permit to sell home grown food, like we all grow in our gardens or buy from those road side stands? The food poisoning is ramparnt from those megafarms–but the ma and pa outfits are locked out from selling me food. Do I care that my hairdresser passed some state test? Nope. If she does a crappy job she will be out of business soon. No government regulation is going to change that from happening. Like it or not, a corporation is in business for one reason, to make a profit. When a profit is earned, that means taxes are paid, workers have jobs so they pay taxes and buy goods etc.
          Break the chain and we support China and Uruguay and all sorts of non-American workers instead.

          Reply
          1. Wrily January 12, 2015

            What does rebuilding roads and bridges have to do with the USDA?

            Reply
          2. NoNumberNow January 12, 2015

            Infrastructure is not limited to roads and bridges. Our business infrastructure is in shambles. Whether it be USDA, FEMA, DOT, pick your alphabet soup, the government has led to the demise of American businesses.

            Reply
          3. Wrily January 13, 2015

            It’s sad that you’re so angry, but I think it’s the other way around; Big business has led to the demise of America.

            Reply
          4. NoNumberNow January 13, 2015

            No business means no government. No government means war and civil unrest. Take a look at Syria, Nigeria, Libya, Afghanistan and all the other warring “countries”. They really are nothing more than hordes of leaderless, unemployed, homeless people wondering about, trying to survive. Small groups try to solidify but end up killing and destroying. All of these counties have no business infrastructure to speak of, so there is no money to pay taxes to support a government. Many of these areas are not lacking in natural resources–in fact some are quite wealthy in that respect. But it is all for naught as long as anarchy is the rule of the day.

            Reply
          5. Wrily January 13, 2015

            Yes, let us start by reeling in those anarchists running Wall Street!

            Reply
          6. NoNumberNow January 15, 2015

            Let’s start reeling in the dictators in Washington D.C.

            Reply
          7. Wrily January 15, 2015

            The dictators are big banking, big oil, big business, and war profiteers. Those clowns in D.C. are just the messenger boys.

            Reply
          8. NoNumberNow January 15, 2015

            We can quibble over semantics, but the net is that ill doers are in all walks of life-private and public sector.

            Reply
      2. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

        Education is more than book learning. What happened to shop class and home ec? What happened to kids holding summer jobs or being apprentices? Too many graduates have the common sense of a gerbil. I am all for 2 years of public service, like a domestic Peace Corps. Uncle Tax Payer can pay for that. I want to see our sweet little darlings out there painting a house for an elderly disabled or cleaning bedpans are the county homeless shelter. All for room and board and every other weekend off. That may inspire them to want to achieve something in life. Spoon feeding them from cradle to graduate school isn’t working.

        Reply
    2. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

      Our crumbling infrastructural does not need college grads. It needs less government oversight by whatever name. We need workers that don’t hold hard work, dirty fingernails and sweat in disdain. We need workers that actually will work, stay on the job and live within their means. Try living in a world without a garbage disposal service. Yet what high schooler aspiresa to be a trash hauler? We love our beef steak, but did any of your classmates talk about a career in killing and butchering animals? Yet the illiterate non-English speaking peasant will do this work gladly. Are you willing to not support immigration reform that allows these millions of workers to move in? How do you plan to make Americans work? Cut off their entitlements? You won’t get elected to any public office, that is for sure.

      Reply
      1. Wrily January 12, 2015

        Rebuilding does need educated people, particularly engineers.
        We have plenty of people willing to work hard, get dirty, and not give up. If you believe otherwise, you are mistaken.

        Reply
  2. Dominick Vila January 10, 2015

    This is one of the best ideas championed by President Obama since he was inaugurated. The key to professional success is a good education, and considering how many Americans have been left behind as a result of not qualifying for the best jobs are economy has to offer, this proposal is critical to our future. The only change I would make is to expand the proposal by including trade schools in the equation.
    As to who pays for it, the answer is simple: society. We all benefit from having a better educated society and, therefore, it is our obligation to ensure our young get the training they need to succeed in the 21st century. Yes, it would be nice if philanthropists and corporations would foot the bill, but they have not done it since we became a nation, and they are not going to do it now or in the future. Most corporations offer training relevant to their business, for obvious reasons, but they should not be expected to incur costs to satisfy the desires of those who believe government does not have a responsibility to support programs beyond national defense and helping big business.

    Reply
    1. hicusdicus January 11, 2015

      Are you the shinning result of community college?

      Reply
      1. Wrily January 11, 2015

        Your warts are showing, troll.

        Reply
        1. hicusdicus January 11, 2015

          You got it wrong again. I am a wart hog. Domino likes to hear himself talk. He has no idea what he is saying, he just likes to say it.

          Reply
          1. CPAinNewYork January 12, 2015

            You’re wrong, hibiscus. I don’t agree with Domenick when it comes to the illegals, but I find truth in a lot of what he says.

            I have always advocated free college educations leading to batchelor degrees, but the recipients MUST be intellectually deserving of that free education.

            Reply
          2. hicusdicus January 12, 2015

            Must be intellectually deserving of that free education. That would be the end of affirmative action. How would it be free? Somebody has to pay. How about fewer useless college degrees and more in skills in which we are in short supply of. Can you think of any we might need? Right now I could use an electrician. Domino has no credibility so you two should get along just fine.

            Reply
    2. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

      Society pays for the free education? Are you nuts? The taxpayer will be stuck with the bill. Maybe your purse is bottomless, but most of us are forced to live within our means. More taxes are not appealing. We have been pouring money into education for decades, yet graduates are barely functional for today’s job market. Basic skills of reasoning, mathematical computation, and communication are lacking in many high school and college graduates.

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila January 11, 2015

        There is no need to raise taxes to make community college education free. Foreign aid to countries that don’t need our help, subsidies to individuals and corporations that don’t need our help, ending all the loopholes that allow the wealthiest members of society pay little or no taxes, and using one fifth of the DoD budget to educate our young instead of maintaining 13 carrier groups to match the Navies of the rest of the world combined, and building more sophisticated jet fighters and bombers to fight people that plant IEDs by the side of the road, or shoot their Ak47 from the beds of pickup trucks, would be enough to pay for the expansion of free education, and for much of the infrastructure improvements we need to remain competitive.

        Reply
        1. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

          Great idea, but flying to the moon by flapping our arms would be easier to accomplish. Get off the anti- wealthy kick. They pay most of the taxes now. The top 20 percent of income earners in the U.S. pay over 90 percent of federal income tax. The bottom 10 percent pay zip. It isn’t the poor or middle class that give vast sums of money to charitables–it’s the super rich: Buffett, Gates, Koch, and so on. We don’t want to discourage them either.

          Reply
          1. iowasteve January 12, 2015

            That’s funny. You say that large corporations are paying taxes?? This is not very funny from a point that many of the top profit earning companies are actually paying taxes at a negative tax rate. This means, they not only DO NOT pay taxes, but actually receive large refunds which is from taxes that the middle class pay. The taxes you refer to paid by any rich person, are individual taxes – which are also paid much less than other middle class people. You probably believe that eliminating minimum wage will increase the taxes paid by middle class when their pay gets cut?? I kind of doubt it at all. Many of those middle class and poor do not pay any taxes because they don’t make any money in the first place!!!! Hmm, must be all of those loopholes and tax breaks that the corporations are getting in exchange for creating jobs, isn’t actually working is it? How about we give them tax breaks only based on job creation and see what happens. But when you just let them make millions in profits and then pay no tax and even get refunds, it doesn’t exactly make them want to spend any of that profit on hiring people and paying them anything – now does it?

            Reply
          2. CPAinNewYork January 12, 2015

            Let’s base their tax breaks on the number of jobs created AND the increase in wages.

            Reply
          3. Dominick Vila January 12, 2015

            I don’t have anything against the wealthy, especially those who earned their fortune the old fashion way. I have a problem with subsidies to people like Michele Bachmann. Subsidies to oil companies that are posting record profits, even now that the price of crude is at record lows. I have problems with looking the other way when our government knows that some people are stashing their loot in the Cayman Islands or in Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying taxes, and I have a problem when the wealthiest Americans invest most of their money overseas at time when millions of fellow Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. As for corporate taxes, don’t fool yourself, some pay little or nothing, especially those with large overseas holdings. They often avoid paying taxes because they are doing business abroad, and don’t pay taxes in the host country because they are American corporations that pay dividends in the USA.

            Yes, the top 10% of earners pay a lot of money in taxes, but proportionately they pay less than the middle class.

            Reply
          4. CPAinNewYork January 12, 2015

            The rich earned their fortunes by stealing it. I forget the source, but I’ve always liked the saying “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.”

            We keep seeing evidence of that time after time. The rich have no respect for the law, weak as it is, and flout it with impunity.

            Want more evidence? Read a newly published book titled “Too Big to Jail.” Amazon.com is currently selling it. The author is a man named Garrett.

            Reply
          5. Dominick Vila January 12, 2015

            I agree to a point. Many of the greatest fortunes in the USA were amassed by people that pursued illegal, or questionable, enterprises, but that is not true for all. Consider people like Bill Gates, who not only amassed a fortune the old fashion way, but is spending much of it helping others. Not all rich people are crooks, and not all corporations are evil, greedy, monsters.

            Reply
          6. NoNumberNow January 12, 2015

            The top earners pay a lot of money for taxes, but so what if they pay proportionately less than the middle class? The top earners also spend more-spend more on goods and services provided by the middle class. Thus middle class is supported indirectly by the money you think should be given instead to the government in the form of taxes for redistribution. It goes without saying that this redistribution will not go to fuel the middle class.

            Reply
          7. Dominick Vila January 13, 2015

            Actually, it is the other way around. A pay raise or tax break to the middle class translates to spending, which stimulates the economy, contribute to business growth and profits, and help the elite and shareholders.
            For a multi-millionaire paying one million dollars in taxes means nothing. For a family of four earning $24K paying the $1K in taxes means choosing between hamburger and a pair of shoes for one of their children.

            Reply
          8. NoNumberNow January 13, 2015

            It’s somewhat of an arrogant comment to assume that a million dollars is insignificant to a wealthy person. That million dollar tax goes to the government which then spends most of it on itself and gives but a small portion back to the citizens. The choice one has: Do you want to live in a society where one has the opportunity to become wealthy by his own labors or a society where everyone is provided a basic standard of living regardless of circumstance? To have the latter requires a government that controls every aspect of our lives. How it will force everyone to do his share; decide what equal means; and not stymy innovation, progress and tranquility are problems no government has ever solved. I’ll take an open society with all it’s inherent problems over some shirt sitting on his pedestal of power telling me how to live. Poor but free is worth far more than a gilded cage.

            Reply
          9. Dominick Vila January 13, 2015

            I want both. I want to be part of a society that ensures ALL citizens have the same opportunities to achieve their social and financial goals. I also want to be part of a society that does not forget those who have been left behind.
            A one million tax burden for someone who made 20 or 30 million in one year, is a big chunk of money, but it does not prevent that person from enjoying everything that money can buy and have enough money left over to invest and accumulate more wealth. I have no problem with that.
            My problem is with a tax system that, proportionately, force people who are struggling to make ends meet to pay more than those that have it all.
            We need tax reform, and I expect that to be one of the areas where Republicans and Democrats are likely to find common ground in months to come. Unfortunately, their efforts are likely to be limited to corporate taxes, rather than individual tax rates. Our government is convinced that the path to prosperity for all involves giving the wealthiest Americans and our corporations (usually multi-nationals) all the tax breaks possible in hopes that some crumbs may trickle down to the masses. That has not happened in the past, and it is not going to happen now.

            Reply
          10. NoNumberNow January 15, 2015

            All moral and just people want utopian standards for all. Unfortunately, not all people are equal. We have the lazy, the dishonest, the infirm , the intellectually challenged etc. We are still and will always be stuck with a minority of the people supporting a majority. Whether it is through such endeavors as entitlements, giving cousin Buford free rent, or church charity, etc. We have equal opportunity, but not equal ability or equal desire. At some point in time, we that pay have to say no. Freeloaders have to be cut loose. I want my money spent on those that need it; not just want it. To that end I support several people with skills I can use and are willing to work. I pay premium wages, and perks in exchange. Most people would not give them the time of day–one is an ex druggie. Both don’t have the wherewithal to manage their affairs and have been royal screw-ups most of their lives. It will never be The Government that will solve the ills of mankind. It will be you and me working as a community, as families that will fix things. Government should stick to health and protection, letting individual states manage more of our day to day affairs, as needed. At the state level there is more control by the voters. What a cowboy in Wyoming wants is not the same as stock broker in New York. I see no logic or reason for all of us to be the same, treated the same.We are a myriad of cultures and life styles and I like it like that. Utopia and big government takes that away from us.

            Reply
          11. Dominick Vila January 15, 2015

            I know people who have taken advantage of programs such as MEDICAID to avoid paying for things like child birth, when they could easily afford to pay for it. I also know people who are severely handicapped, mentally and physically, and who are unable to seek employment or support themselves. Along the same lines, I know young people who got Liberal Arts degrees and are struggling to get a good paying job. Some of them barely make above minimum wage.
            Yes, it is virtually impossible for society, government, or the private sector to ensure that everyone enjoys prosperity and a good standard of living, but I believe we have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that those who have been left behind for circumstances beyond their control, or because of poor decisions, to at least live with a modicum of dignity and comfort.
            I believe our social programs, especially MEDICAID, welfare, and the unemployment system, need strict rules and greater oversight to ensure only those who do need help get the assistance they need, and that assistance for those capable of working does not become a perpetual crutch.
            My problem involves deliberate efforts to deny members of our society the opportunity to earn enough to support themselves (minimum wage), and a tax system that allows the wealthiest members of our society to pay little or no taxes, while middle class people are often fined by the IRS for failing to report something. Obviously, there are many other concerns, ranging from prejudice, to discrimination, to decisions influenced by greed or ideology.

            Reply
          12. NoNumberNow January 17, 2015

            40% of the federal govt. income is from income tax. The top 10% –24 million taxpayers – (AGI over $112,000) pay 70% of the income tax. About 43% –91 million tax payers- end up with no tax liability. Why do you consider that unfair? The real problem is that the lower 50% of taxpayers, defined as having an AGI under $32,000 don’t earn enough, overall, to live beyond basic levels and they don’t like it. Many are young, unskilled, or work part-time. Secondly, about 40% of the federal govt. income is from payroll taxes, which hits the lower income bracket earners particularly hard. Why don’t you advocate a tax credit for low income taxpayers of this tax burden? That will require the federal government to get control of it’s fiscal irresponsibility and cut spending, however.

            Reply
          13. CPAinNewYork January 12, 2015

            The super rich don’t pay over 90% of the taxes. In fact, because of the tax breaks that they’re given, they pay a lower percentage of their income than than does the middle class.

            I’ll get off any anti-wealthy “kick” if you’ll get off the propaganda that’s being sread about the contribution of hte rich to our “welfare.” Is this claim coming out again because that elitist clod Mittens Romney is thinking of making another power grab?

            Reply
          14. NoNumberNow January 12, 2015

            I said the top 20% pay 90% of federal income tax. The super rich were not referenced and I referenced a specific tax. Philosopically, how it is decided who pays enough or what “fair share” might be will be argued til the end of time. Many people seem to think the money that the government spends comes out of thin air. It comes from you and me and from future generations paying the debt created to cover overspending. I shudder to think of the potential candidates any party will be lining up for the upcoming dog and pony show. The line up will full of reruns and ponies backed by big purses.

            Reply
  3. rafibaby January 10, 2015

    This is great news. Given the said state of public education (K-12), this plan will provide youngsters with the opportunity to advance their education and become more competitive in the job market. That said, I believe that if this country had the ability to bail out the auto industry and some Wall Street companies, why not bail out the millions of graduates that have taken the risk of financing their higher education by taken loans?

    Reply
    1. hicusdicus January 11, 2015

      Oh yeah! free education will really work out. Education is already free and look how that has worked out. They have acquired enough literacy to properly fill out their welfare forms.

      Reply
    2. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

      Why does the student not work for a few years to earn money for college or attend a cheaper school? The plethora of colleges out there have only cheapened the value of a college degree. Many graduates still end up doing jobs that no college taught them skills to do. They wasted several years and put themselves in a ridiculous debt position for no good reason.

      Reply
  4. Wrily January 11, 2015

    HEY DISQUS! Get these threads sorted!

    Reply
  5. NoNumberNow January 11, 2015

    Free education? Really? Does the President plan to print money to pay the schools? Why not include trade schools? The biggest portion of my real estate taxes goes to supporting schools and most of those high school graduates are barely literate. Most certainly, they have it too easy now. Tons of testing but not learning anything. Ask your recent high school grad if he can add a column of numbers without a calculator, or does he know why we fought WWII. Does he know who Patrick Henry was or George Washington Carver. I doubt it.

    Reply

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