The student gave a sigh of relief. His senior year was drawing to a close, and unlike many families across the United States, his family was eligible to reap the benefits of the Tennessee Promise program.
His family didn’t have to worry about where he was going to college or the overwhelming cost of tuition. He could attend community college for free, all without having to leave home.
More students may have opportunities like this under the new Tennessee Promise program, starting in the fall of 2015. Any high school student that graduates in the state of Tennessee is eligible for a free scholarship and mentor opportunities. This program is meant to give individual guidance to each student as he or she navigates the college admissions process.
In early January, President Barack Obama traveled to Tennessee to issue a challenge to the U.S. Congress to make community college tuition free in every state.
He proposed making it a requirement for students to qualify for the free tuition they had to complete community service hours and maintaining a 2.5 grade point average.
Under Obama’s plan, federal funds would pay for three quarters of the tuition costs for community colleges and the states would be expected to pay the remaining funds necessary for completely eliminating tuition.
Students should not be burdened with high tuition and the indebtedness college loans bring. It can cost almost $300,000 to earn a bachelor’s degree at some private American colleges while some countries, such as Germany, do not charge tuition for community college.
This is completely outrageous. What middle class student or family can afford $300,000? The average cost of attending state universities is $93,640 over four years, according to collegedata.com. Community colleges cost a fraction of what a four-year college or university costs, and they both offer basic general education courses.
According to the American Association for Community Colleges, Obama’s proposal could help 47 percent of first-time freshmen entering community college.
The AACC reported that students who complete community college earn an average $7,000 more a year than a student who only has a high school diploma. Each year approximately 30 percent of students that graduated high school do not enroll in a two- or four-year college program. The New York Times reported that that percentage would drop if Obama’s proposal were enacted into law.
General education credits earned at community colleges will transfer to four-year schools, so students could still go to a world class university to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Community college students usually live at home, also eliminating the costs of room and board and travel. Additionally, students would have more time to mature and to explore career opportunities.
Obama was right to include requirements for the students to receive the free tuition. Completing community service hours and maintaining a reasonable GPA are not unreasonable.
Students who go straight from high school to a four-year college graduate with an average $30,000 in debt. It takes years to pay the money back when graduates are trying to establish themselves in careers and start families. By completing the first two years of a degree free at a community college, students could reduce their debt.
Right now, students from high income families who can afford tuition and low income families who qualify for federal assistance can attend college. If Congress doesn’t implement Obama’s plan, it will become almost impossible for middle class students to go to college.