Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Education

Robin Bridges, Editor in Chief

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America’s College Promise, otherwise known as #FreeCommunityCollege is a proposal being introduced by President Barack Obama during his sixth annual State of the Union Address next week. This proposal, introduced first in a video on the White House Facebook page last week has sparked debate and interest.
“Now, more than ever, a college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class,” President Obama said to the crowd assembled in Knoxville, Tenn. President Obama thanked the people of Tennessee for providing the kick-start for this proposal based on a 2015 state funded program.
America’s College Promise is based on two similar programs begun in the Midwest. The first program is the Tennessee Promise: A “last dollar” scholarship and mentorship program where beginning in 2015, students will be able to go to community colleges across the state essentially for free. The second program is the Chicago Star Scholarship.
Also, there will be a “Last Dollar” scholarship program for new 2015 CPS graduates. “Last Dollar” scholarships are based on need and cover the costs that expected family contribution and grant awards don’t. Both programs will be available locally to students beginning with the class of 2015.
According to a fact sheet available on whitehouse.gov, America’s College Promise would differ from these two programs in a number of ways. Primarily and most obviously, it would be available to graduates nation-wide. Secondly, it would be available to both full and part-time students. Lastly, it would require a higher cumulative GPA of 2.5.
“We don’t expect anybody to be bound by the circumstances of their birth,” said President Obama the day after the initial release of the Facebook video.
America’s College Promise would also introduce higher standards for state regulators and budget makers as well as the community colleges and technical schools accepting the plans funding. The program is planned to be undertaken in partnership with states and colleges in order to improve America’s competitiveness in the international workforce.
Community colleges are expected to raise education standards, graduation rates and technical programs. States are expected to increase their investment in higher education by taking a one-fourth responsibility for funding the proposal.
The White House is comparing America’s College Promise to the push to make high school education the American standard nearly a century ago.