President Barack Obama unveiled a bold proposal on Thursday night to expand college access. The president says that he would like to see the first 2 years of community college to be offered for free to anyone who meets certain standards.
“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 White House said.
While complete details of the proposal have not been made available, the draft proposal aims to benefit roughly 9 million students in a given year with an average full-time student saving $3,800 in tuition per year. The proposal would allow students to earn a technical skill that they need for work, an Associate’s degree, or work towards a Bachelor’s degree.
Under the proposal, students will be required to attend a community college at least half-time while maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher.
“Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that are either 1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes,” the White House says.
The proposed program would expand funding for technical training programs. Obama would like to create an American Technical Training Fund to provide awards to schools who build employer partnerships, accommodate part-time work, and “provide accelerated training.”
The White House says that the federal government would fund 3/4 of the cost. States would need to contribute the remaining funds. The new Republican-controlled Congress would need to approve funding to make the proposal a reality for students.
The proposal was announced ahead of the president’s State of the Union address, which will be delivered to Congress in the weeks ahead.