Editorial: Students need and deserve free community college

Future college students, burdened with the reality of college’s rising costs, are poised to have a far easier time securing an education in the future thanks to a proposal from President Barack Obama.

In front of a crowd at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee, President Obama announced his ambitious proposal to make the first two years of community college free.

Having the government pay for community college is without a doubt a good idea, but just the first step in the right direction.

“Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today,” Obama said in his speech.

The plan would take $60 billion and 10 years to implement. The requirements to qualify for free tuition would include having a 2.5 or higher grade point average and being at least a part time student on the path to completing a degree or transferring, according to an article in The New York TImes.

In a piece published in the New York Time, Tom Hanks praised the proposal and credited having free access to community college in the 1970s and reduced tuition at the university level for making him the successful person he is today.

Hanks is just one example of how much access to an education can alter someone’s life.

Imagine if every single person in the entire country could have the same experience he did.

Fittingly enough, in Tennessee, where Obama made his speech, they have a program in place that allows some students to attend community colleges for free, according to an article in The Tennessean.

California community colleges cost roughly $5,000 per year in tuition, books and miscellaneous costs, according to CollegeCalc.org. Until 1984 California community colleges were free, and there is no reason they can’t be again.

Students being able to save that money to put towards furthering their education elsewhere would change countless lives.

The plan would pay for a student to study for  two years, after that the cost of attendance would fall on their shoulders.Financial aid, grants and scholarships would still be available.

The initiative is broken down like this, the federal government would pay for a quarter of the costs while state governments would cover the rest, according to The New York TImes.

While getting the first two years of one’s education paid for is great and should be implemented as soon as possible, it begs the question why should students have to pay for their higher education at all.

Quite a few countries across Europe and South America have entirely free higher education programs. The only thing stopping such a system from happening in the US is politics and the capitalistic machine that makes money off the current college system.

America the great is behind the times, but starting off with free community college is a great jumping off point.

Even if the plan never gets approved, which is very possible with government gridlock, there is no reason other states can’t follow Tennessee’s promise program as inspiration to fund local college level education.

This is a matter that Congress and the states needs to act on so that hopefully one day not only is the start of college free, but the reality of outrageously priced education is nothing but a distant memory.