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President Obama’s “American College Promise”

By Megan Brandrup

The newest move President Obama has made is for the reform of secondary education, making it more affordable for people of all economic levels.  The president began this reform for affordable education by lowering the cost of tuition for many major universities and state schools. The next step to his education reform bill is making community college more affordable or even free to students who qualify.

President Obama announced his “American College Promise” at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan. There the president shared his ideas and the qualifications for students to gain access to free education. The president announced the plan itself will cost $60 billion dollars, and will provide students “who are willing to work for it” with two free years of community college. The White House believes this plan could help around nine million students per year.

Income is not the only factor determining whether you get to attend college for free. The “American College Promise” has a few other stipulations for students. First, you must be enrolled in the college with at least half-time status. Second, you must maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average. Third, you have to make steady progress towards graduating, and finally, your household cannot have an adjusted gross income of over $200,000 per year.

Students are not the only ones who must qualify for this new “American College Promise.” Colleges also must meet a certain set of standards set by this new bill. Colleges must offer programs that would transfer to a four-year college. The school must also adopt evidence-based reforms to improve student outcomes. Each state would also need to take part in the “American College Promise” if they wanted the program in their state. Each state must contribute one-fourth of the states cost for the program. Each state must promise to work towards improving and investing in higher education in their state. Finally, each state must allocate funding based on performance, and not on enrollment.

So how would this new bill effect four-year schools? In an interview with Waldorf’s President, Bob Alsop, he said, “I’m sure there would be some impact on four-year schools. However, most community colleges are already much cheaper than four-year schools. I believe students choose a place like Waldorf College for more than just price.” The true college experience is something you may not always be able to have at a community college.

When asked if Waldorf would ever consider going back to a two-year school President Alsop said, “Waldorf still offers two-year degrees, but we have no plans to return to a solely two-year school.” Some schools are already quite affordable for the average income student. Waldorf College prides itself on being more affordable. At Waldorf College we believe that a quality college education should be very accessible. That is why we maintain a low tuition, offer generous scholarships, and make every attempt to keep student debt levels low at graduation.”

Alsop did see some positives in this new proposal. “If a free community college program would allow some students to attend college who would otherwise not be able to, that would be a positive,” Alsop said. With every plan, you will encounter both positives and negatives. “My two concerns would be how would this program be funded and would some students choose to go to a community college where they may be better served attending a small private school like Waldorf,” Alsop said.

Education is something held in very high regard in the United States. For some, receiving a higher-level education is too expensive and sometimes only a dream. The “American College Promise” offers hope; hope the future of America may be brighter, and ultimately our country will improve. Only time will tell if the benefits outweigh the costs. With more educated Americans, we may all be able to look to the future unafraid.