The Facts on President Barack Obama’s Plan for Free Community College

President Obama's official portrait by White House photographer Pete Souza
President Obama’s official portrait by White House photographer Pete Souza

The following is a fact sheet provided by the White House Office of the Press Secretary to the press. It goes into great detail about the President’s proposal to make two years of community college free to anyone who is willing to work hard, which he first unveiled Thursday evening.

FACT SHEET: White House Unveils America’s College Promise Proposal: Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students

Nearly a century ago, a movement that made high school widely available helped lead to rapid growth in the education and skills training of Americans, driving decades of economic growth and prosperity. America thrived in the 20th century in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world. But other nations have matched or exceeded the secret to our success. Today, more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career.

Today the President is unveiling the America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. This proposal will require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. The program would be undertaken in partnership with states and is inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.

In addition, today the President will propose a new American Technical Training Fund to expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs similar to Tennessee Tech Centers that meet employer needs and help prepare more Americans for better paying jobs. These proposals build on a number of historic investments the President has made in college affordability and quality since taking office, including a $1,000 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award to help working and middle class families, the creation of the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, reforming student loans to eliminate subsidies to banks to invest in making college more affordable and keeping student debt manageable, and making available over $2 billion in grants to connect community colleges with employers to develop programs that are designed to get hard-working students good jobs.

The President’s Plan: Make Two Years of College as Free and Universal as High School

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. Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations. They are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. For many students, they offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. They are also uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing, health information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

The America’s College Promise proposal would create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college. Restructuring the community college experience, coupled with free tuition, can lead to gains in student enrollment, persistence, and completion transfer, and employment. Specifically, here is what the initiative will mean:

Enhancing Student Responsibility and Cutting the Cost of College for All Americans: Students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their program will have their tuition eliminated. These students will be able to earn half of the academic credit they need for a four-year degree or earn a certificate or two-year degree to prepare them for a good job.

Building High-Quality Community Colleges: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that either (1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or (2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers. Other types of programs will not be eligible for free tuition. Colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes, such as the effective Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) programs at the City University of New York which waive tuition, help students pay for books and transit costs, and provide academic advising and supportive scheduling programs to better meet the needs of participating students, resulting in greater gains in college persistence and degree completion.

Ensuring Shared Responsibility with States: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. States that choose to participate will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate community college tuition for eligible students. States that already invest more and charge students less can make smaller contributions, though all participating states will be required to put up some matching funds. States must also commit to continue existing investments in higher education; coordinate high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions to reduce the need for remediation and repeated courses; and allocate a significant portion of funding based on performance, not enrollment alone. States will have flexibility to use some resources to expand quality community college offerings, improve affordability at four-year public universities, and improve college readiness, through outreach and early intervention.

Expanding Technical Training for Middle Class Jobs. Additionally, in order to spread the availability of high-quality and innovative programs like those in Tennessee and Texas, which achieve better than average completion and employment outcomes, the President is also proposing the American Technical Training Fund. This fund will award programs that have strong employer partnerships and include work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled to accommodate part-time work. Programs could be created within current community colleges or other training institutions. The focus of the discretionary budget proposal would be to help high-potential, low-wage workers gain the skills to work into growing fields with significant numbers of middle-class jobs that local employers are trying to fill such as energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing. This program will fund the start-up of 100 centers and scale those efforts in succeeding years. Smaller grants would help to bring together partners and start a pilot program. Larger grants would be used for expanding programs based on evidence of effectiveness, which could include past performance on graduation rates, job placement rates and placement wages. Building on the President’s community college initiative, known as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants and for which 2014 was the final year of funding, these funds will help community colleges become more job-driven.

Building on State and Local Programs. In the past year, Tennessee and the City of Chicago initiated free community college programs. In the first year of the Tennessee program, 57,000 students representing almost 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class applied for the program. The scholarship is coupled with college counseling, mentorship, and community service that early evidence suggests supports greater enrollment, persistence and college completion. This is coupled with efforts to spur innovation and improvement by funding colleges using performance outcomes based on student success and an innovative approach to career and technical education through the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. These Tennessee Tech Centers have a graduation rate of 80 percent and a job placement rate of 85 percent.

Building on a Record of Progress. Since taking office, President Obama has taken steps to expand federal support to help more students afford college, while calling for a shared responsibility in tackling rising college costs. Key achievements include:

· Doubling the Investment in Pell Grants: The President has raised the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,730 for the 2014-15 award year — a nearly $1,000 increase since 2008. The number of Pell Grant recipients has expanded by 50 percent over that same time.
· Expanding Education Tax Credits: President Obama established the American Opportunity Tax Credit in 2009 to assist families with the costs of college, providing up to $10,000 for four years of college tuition.

· Pay-As-You-Earn Loans: All new borrowers can now cap loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes. The Department of Education has begun the process to amend its regulations and will make the new plan available on all direct loans by December 2015. We expect it to benefit up to 5 million borrowers.

· First in the World Grants: In September, the Department of Education awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the new First in the World grant program to expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs.

· College Ratings Program: The Department of Education continues to develop a college ratings system by the 2015-2015 school year that will recognize institutions that excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds; focus on maintaining affordability; and succeed at helping all students graduate with a degree or certificate of value.

· Job-Driven Training Grants: Through the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training program more than 1,000 institutions have received $2 billion in federal funding to design education and training programs, working closely with employers and industry that prepare workers for jobs in-demand in their regional economies, such as health care, information technology and energy. These programs have shown early success — through the end of FY2013, among the nearly 164,000 individuals who had enrolled in these programs 88 percent either completed a program or continued the program into a second year.

· White House Summit on Community Colleges: In October 2010, the President convened community college leaders, faculty and students; business leaders; philanthropic organizations; and other workforce development experts for the first White House summit dedicated to the role that community colleges play in our efforts to increase the number of college graduates and prepare those graduates to lead the 21st century workforce.

· Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness: Last August, the Department of Education launched a new $10 million Institute for Education Sciences-funded Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) that is working to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college readiness efforts across the nation. CAPR is documenting current practices in developmental English and math education to identify innovative instructional practices that improve student success.

· Call to Action on College Opportunity: Last December, the President, Vice President, and First Lady joined college presidents and leaders of non-profits, foundations, and other organizations to announce over 600 new commitments to produce more college graduates. Community colleges made commitments individually, and in partnership with neighboring school districts and four-year institutions, to build seamless transitions among institutions, develop clear educational and career pathways, implement strategies to increase student completion of STEM programs, and establish more accurate measures of student progress and success.

36 Replies to “The Facts on President Barack Obama’s Plan for Free Community College”

  1. Finally, a plan to return America to First World status. Free education and free health care should be considered the least we can do for our youth. It’s a clear Right/Left choice: bombs, corporate subsidies and a dumbed down populace vs healthy kids, educated and innovative students, and a bright future for the country. This terrifies conservatives, who know that education breeds liberalism. F**k ’em.

  2. Hope everyone is calling/emailing their Congressman/woman to encourage them to back POTUS on this awesome idea!!

    I have several relatives who want to pursue nursing via community colleges but have been deterred by costs. The President’s eliminates that obstacle. Wonderful news.

  3. Sounds good but and maybe I missed it, not everyone will want to go to college so why not expand it into trades like plumbing, auto mechanics in other words blue collar jobs.

    Believe it or not a blue collar job will expand the middle class and anyone who owns a home and something goes wrong when you see the bill sometimes you say I am working at the wrong job

  4. Blue collar jobs are the backbone of the middle class, and it would be easy to either a) have CC’s provide skilled labor training or b) expand the program to include trade schools. What we need in conjunction with both is the return of strong trade unions. Being in the trades in a Right to Work state is a guarantee of poverty. You live in Illinois (as do I) and we both know that Gov elect Bruce Rauner admires Scott Walker and absolutely detests the CTU. Rauner will try to follow the Walker plan and destroy Gov’t sector unions and then go after the private sector. Unions are antithetical to plutocratic control, a mortal enemy to be crushed. The unions must be kept in check, too much power breeds corruption, so there must be a balance. All that being said, you are 100% correct.

  5. SEE,SEE,SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!




    You know they are going to say it…..

  6. What about offering tax credits for millenials who already attended community college and can’t find a job on top of struggling with student loan debt? Don’t reject your voting base to appeal to the next generation. Good grief!

  7. The president will be in my little berg of a town today discussing this very subject. He will stop at a college in Knoxville then come to my area to speak at a plastics plant

  8. Our state community colleges DO have this type of training, electrician etc. it is still expensive as our conservatives have kept our state dead last in its contribution to the state universify system. A kid here pays as much for university as some private colleges charge, and kids can go to out of state public colleges, pay higher out of state fees and still pay the same as it would cost here. The CNAs are very myopic on this.

  9. You are correct. But, I think this will encourage more community colleges to design more technical/occupational programs to train plumbers, electricians, etc., but also include a few liberal arts courses and others to help build critical and creative thinking skills in these students. There’s nothing better than a plumber who knows their trade but can discuss Plato with you too!

  10. The problem with this plan is that it relies on states to contribute one-quarter of the tuition, which means it allows states to opt out of the program altogether. I’m betting most red states will cry ‘socialism,’ and, just like they have with Medicaid expansion, screw their citizens out of this great program (because, you know, [WINK] it’s a black Kenyon born socialist illegitimate potus take away our freedom plan). I wish it was just a fully federally funded program that would make it harder for repuglican governors to turn it down.

  11. Good point. I attended Com. Col. and it was free and it had a lot of offerings besides the typical academics. I taught HS for 25+ years and guess what, not every kid goes to college (nor should they). In fact, Industrial Arts needs to be brought back to the HSs. It’s desparately needed.

  12. I think that would fall under technical training which is addressed. There are a lot of scam trade schools right now so those need to be excluded from this program.

  13. I think there are tech depart in community colleges or career centers that teach in conjunction in some places where asked with unions ;I am Sure this is part of the situation and would be a big surprise if it weren’t; it really the only way it’ll work.

  14. This was Gov of CA ’59-’67 Pat Brown’s vision of California but at that time could only make it very, very affordable.
    Reagan began to slowly dismantle it when he became gov.

    The civilized countries with FREE post-secondary education and many are excelling in math, science and our citizen’s IQ’s

    Saudi Arabia
    Sri Lanka
    Trinidad and Tobago
    United Arab Emirates

  15. the tea bag/repubs DO NOT want an educated populace, if educated they (the populace) wouldn’t be able to get away with their bullsh*t.

  16. An uneducated populace has greater costs with dependance on government assistance.

    Many of the above mentioned countries are leading us in math and science, do you want them to rule the world?

  17. We seamed to have $$ for these, where were you?

    US Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq to Cost $6 trillion

    Medicare Part D will add $852 billion to the debt over the next 10 years

    How much did the financial crisis cost us? $12.8 trillion, one group says

  18. I reread my post and it’s not correct wording. It should’ve said this:

    …if educated they (the populace) wouldn’t be let THEM get away with THIER bullsh*t lies.

  19. Heh! Shows what you know! Bill Haslam (R) Governor of Tennessee, and Lamar Alexander (R) of TN were the brainchild in this for the state of TN alone. The POTUS wants to mandate this nationwide to ingrain the brainwashing from the Common Core Curriculum they are mandating on the kids now. Put that in your bong and light it.

  20. “ colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate…”

    This seems like a paradox. It’s not necessarily true, but generally speaking, the better programs are more to difficult to graduate from. That said, if this program provides resources to help students learn and graduate, as it sounds like it will, great. But the problem with our country’s education has largely to do with low standards. I was shocked in college when I learned how many of my classmates barely knew how to do algebra. Meanwhile, the exchange students from India and China had been doing Calculus since they were 12. These different standards are something we need to fix.

    That said, kudos to Obama for offering this plan. It’ll never pass while he’s president, but hey, it’s something.

    And a shout-out to another idea that has worked wonders in Ohio, and should gain federal traction:

  21. President Obama is correct. Knowledge is power. I do not mean only for a job and a bigger pay check. Knowledge opens the mind to a world of ideas and thoughts. It also makes communication easier. I recently came into contact with a truly ignorant and violent person. I am 64 and have traveled this country extensively. I lived in Manhattan, NY for approximately 30 years. I recently came into contact with someone whose grammar was so bad it was physically difficult to listen to her speak. Her use of double negatives was painful. She was a high school graduate. If she continued her education,hopefully an English instructor would help her.

  22. In this article there is discussion about CCs and local employers working together for “middle-class” jobs and other similar programs.

    Agree that is a much needed type of education that has been neglected.

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