Obama announces proposal for free community college in State of the Union Address

By Lauren Pinkston

On January 20, President Obama announced a proposal for two years of free community college in the annual State of the Union Address. The goal, Obama said, is “to lower the cost of community college to zero.” The program enables recent graduates of Chicago Public Schools with a 3.0 GPA or higher to pursue an Associate’s degree at no cost.

The program requires the federal government to pay for 75 percent of the tuition and states to cover the remaining 25 percent. The plan is modeled after similar programs in Tennessee. Obama said, “Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible.”

The Chicago Star Scholarship was an inspiration for Obama’s proposal. This program, beginning in fall 2015, enables recent graduates of Chicago Public Schools with a 3.0 GPA or higher to pursue an Associates degree at no cost.

Michael Morsovillo, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, is very positive about the Obama’s proposal and the Chicago Star Scholarship. He said, “It’s an amazing opportunity for students who otherwise may not have been given the opportunity to have secondary education.”

Others in the Dominican community are critical of Obama’s proposal. David Dolence, professor of political science, said: “Obama is just announcing something that sounds real good but there is no structure in place. There is absolutely no substance to the proposal—it just sounds real nice. Who will pay, who will get the money, how will they get the money, who is qualified, what happens if you fail out, what happens if you do not show up, how will schools report?”

Transfer student Dave Wendorf said, “Free tuition for new students and returning students of all demographics has the potential to create some amazing opportunities for those who would otherwise never have a chance to do so, but it raises a lot of question and could have its negative effects as well.”

There is still a long way to go for this proposal to become a reality. Dolence said, “There are hundreds of political reality questions that Obama has not even begun to ask because he just wants to tout the abstract idea that he cares about education.”

Morsovillo said, It’s going to help schools like Dominican because it will be much more doable for students to pay for two years of college rather than four years.” Because 70 percent of Dominican’s transfer students come from community colleges, Morsovillo said the proposal will help admission at Dominican.