The Obama Community College Program: America’s College Promise

Since President Obama announcement his plan to provide basic college to all Americans, known as the American College Promise, there has been speculation and disagreement over funding and implementation. The truth of the matter is that because the plan was just recently announced these are the early stages of the legislation and most Americans do not have enough information about to make a decision regarding feasibility or necessity.

The Obama Community College Program

The proposal has yet to reach the Congress, and there is not a detailed plan for the federal government and state, as they will share the cost 75% and 25% respectively. There are likely many months ahead of debate regarding who most benefits from the program. With more than 7 million students enrolled in community colleges across the US, it’s certain that many will find benefit from the legislation, particularly minority students. Over the past two decades, Community colleges have seen a shift in their enrollment. Minority applications have increased nearly two-fold while Caucasian student applications have dropped nearly 25%.

Community college can be an affordable alternative to a traditional four-year degree, and with two-thirds of all job openings slated to require some college education in the coming years workers will be left behind without these basic skills. Currently, community colleges boast low tuition rates for commuter and part-time students and matriculation rates close to 60% and transfer rates in the low twenties. While these rates are mostly favorable, there are many problems befalling the American community college system. Presently, community colleges are experiencing extremely high default rates in their federally funded student loan programs.

With the legislation passed in 2008 that suspends the eligibility of schools with higher default averages, almost 9% of community college students have no access to federal loan programs. Community college systems have also been struggling with transferability of their programs and credits to four-year institutions. The American’s College Promise legislation can change all this for community colleges and change the course of the system.

While all the fine points of the program have not been presented, there are requirements that students will have to meet to take advantage of the proposed program. Student will be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA and part-time attendance. As many as half of all community college attendees are part-time students many stalling their educational progression due to financial demands. Part-time students hoping to make the transition to full-time will likely praise this pending legislation.

While the legislation may be met with challenges as it is presented to the Republican Congress, it’s chances of survival should not be discounted. Many states from both parties have been discussing passing similar legislation in their states with several states already offering comparable programs. There is a lot of hope for America’s College Promise.

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