Free College?!

Noah Sudow

Today, the President has announced the America's College Promise Proposal, which would allow students to go to community college without paying tuition for their first two years.„ΙThe announcement, as expected, builds off of the Tennessee Promise, but does have a few important differences.„ There are still a lot of details to be released (like the cost), but below is our initial overview of the proposal.

America's College Promise Overview

  • Goal„
    • Cover the cost of the first two years of Community College tuition
  • Eligible institutions„
    • Community colleges must offer programs that are fully transferable to bachelor's degrees or occupation training programs with high completion rates
    • Community colleges must implement new reforms focused around increasing student outcomes
  • Eligible Students„
    • Keep a minimum of 2.5 GPA
    • Enroll at least half-time
    • Make continued progress toward completion of the program
  • Funding/ Eligible States„
    • President Obama is proposing that the federal government pay for 75% of the average tuition price, which they have noted is $3,900 (but it's also worth noting many low-income students are already able to attend community college with no tuition costs thanks to Pell).
    • Only states that match the proposed federal investment would be able to participate.„Ι The specific state matching requirement would be determined based on that state's current investment in community colleges (to not punish states that already invest relatively high amounts to keep tuition low at community colleges).
    • States must also commit to maintain funding for higher education and also fund a portion of higher education based on performance/ outcomes.
    • It is unlikely that Congress will be fully supportive of the proposal (which would require their help in funding). Senator Alexander has already issued a statement that while not opposed to free community college tuition, the federal government should let states do what Tennessee has done on its own and not create a new program. He signaled the best action for the federal government was rather to continue to support Pell and simplify the student aid process (which is likely to be his major„Ιhigher education policy effort in 2015).