If it is more than just a talking point, the US education system is likely to see a considerable change in the years to come – at least according to President Barack Obama.
According to the White House, Obama made a proposal to make community college “free for everybody who is willing to work for it”. So far, however, it is about all that is known about this idea: in his usual manner, Obama kept from saying anything specific on the subject, for example, how much it is going to cost and where the money to finance it is going to come from. The officials from the White House and Education Department stated that the details concerning funding will be forthcoming together with the president’s budget, but nothing has been declared so far.
According to Obama, this initiative is aimed at providing everybody – not just young people – with an opportunity to constantly train in order to improve the quality of their lives. The only figure to be mentioned so far is that if all states participate in the initiative, the cost of education may be decreased by, on average, $3,800 per year. Taking into account the number of students entering the educational system of the United States every year, it means that the program is going to cost billions of dollars, while at the same time devaluing the meaning of higher education.
Nevertheless, the likelihood of passing this proposal seems to be tentative at the very best, considering the fact that Congress is currently led by the Republicans who are unlikely to be thrilled by a project with such an obvious socialist tinge.
According to what is known about the proposal so far, it offers free access to the first two years of community colleges for students who are capable of maintaining their grades on a rather mediocre average level; yet colleges willing to get government funding from this program will have to correspond to certain academic requirements. Notwithstanding this contradiction, the American Association of Community Colleges is, unsurprisingly, already very enthusiastic about the prospect.
The White House states that the inspiration for the proposal came from the last year Tennessee scholarship program utilizing lottery funding to give the state’s high school graduates two years of free access to community and technical colleges. This legislation was passed despite heavy opposition from private colleges – they believe that this initiative will inevitably divert a number of students towards state-funded community colleges, while at the same time decreasing the general quality of college graduates and education in general. The actual results of the program, however, are yet to be seen.
So far it is stated that the program will not be forced upon the states: each state will have to opt in individually and provide a part of funding for the program to make sure they don’t do it just to relocate some of their own financial burden to the federal government.
However, it should be noted that so far the proposal is more of an idea than an organized plan.