Promise of college affordability

Ever since President Obama announced his sixth State of the Union on Jan. 20, there has been a trending topic of college affordability. Through the power of social media, his teaser video has been the “best-performing” post on the White House Facebook page as to date, and the hashtag #FreeCommunityCollege has been trending on Twitter.

The president unveiled his new proposal, “America’s College Promise,” to keep college affordable–to make the cost of the first two years of community college free. Such an ambitious plan stays in line with his promise to make educational opportunity more accessible to all.

In terms of executing this new proposal, the plan will cost at least $60 billion over 10 years, partially relieving over nine million students across the country of the heavy burdens of student tuition loans. Specifically, students able to maintain a 2.5 GPA, go to school half-time and make progress toward a degree can qualify for the average savings of $3,800 in tuition each year.

The implications and the potential impact are massive. By making community college free for the first two years, a college education can become as pervasive as a high school education with its availability. In fact, young people can take this chance to better equip themselves with the skills needed for the workplace, to expand the limited opportunities many may have. The president hopes more informational technology and manufacturing jobs will be filled, an issue that he has been stressing of the loss in our economy.

The value of education should not be a privilege, but an opportunity for all. More should have the freedom of being able to choose what they want to pursue and become knowledgeable experts in those fields, to have the ability to do what they are passionate about. And because community college equips students with the skills needed for the workplace, that education can provide a wider range of jobs by leveling the playing field. The proposal itself is promising; indeed, it can be an integral stepping stone for everyone who deserves a fair shot. In this sense, the president has pinpointed the key issue in education today by proposing to eliminate the barrier of college tuition that prevents those with less resources from obtaining a higher education.

But this could all just stay a proposal–and nothing more. The top priority of the Republican-dominated Congress is to cut spending and balance the budget; Congress is especially reluctant to support new, large-scale spending programs such as this one. By introducing a $60 billion bill, the lack of a common ground will likely prevent such a proposal from being enacted. Also, the Republican Congress has the option to ignore this piece of legislation until the president runs out his term.

Even so, it’s a valiant effort for the president to make affordable quality education for the ones wanting to get ahead. The president is targeting liberal states, such as California, to adopt similar approaches to his proposal if the federal government is unwilling to do so. If adopted in California, more Walnut students will find it enormously beneficial to be a part of the 2.1 million already receiving public community college and subsidies. And who knows? Maybe students can then focus more on what they want to pursue and how they’ll get there, rather than being worried or limited by the expensive costs involved.

For now, we wait to see the direction that this proposal will take.

By Jeffrey Tran, Staff writer

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