College for Everyone?

In the run-up to his upcoming State of the Union speech, President Obama last week proposed America's College Promise, a program that would make two years of community college free for students "willing to work for it." MomSpeaker Raya Fagg is a fan of the prospect. Here's why.

““In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience. We will not fill those jobs – or keep those jobs on our shores – without the training offered by community colleges.” —President Barack Obama

On January 8, 2015, President Obama made a proposal that would make community college free for responsible students. The Internet went bat-caca crazy, with some hand-wringing about the “Debt” ($34 billion according to one site), some claiming that low-income students already qualify for aid and subsidy (no, we don’t) and others misrepresenting the whole proposal with “Free Obama School.”

People, have an independent thought every now and then, I beg of you!

The program is modeled after one the brainchild of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Beginning with the class of 2015, The Tennessee Promise is a scholarship and mentoring program that will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the Hope scholarship or TSAA funds. Students can use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. The financial burden lifted makes a difference in a student’s success (who can concentrate on conjugating verbs if there’s a chance that you’ll be escorted out of class because your bill isn’t paid?), but coupled with the mentoring portion, all students have a chance for success. Students in Tennessee will also have to complete eight hours of community service per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

President Obama’s plan is similar. In Obama’s plan, students must attend school at least half time (six credit or two classes); maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make progress toward completion. This means all those professional students are not eligible to join this program and remain a sophomore forever.

This program has so much potential! Full-time students would save around $3,800 a year and this could benefit about 9 million students.

Perhaps your student doesn’t want to continue at a four-year university? The beauty of this program is that this proposal could be used for a trade school or technical school.

The education system in other parts of the country have left the United States in the dust. Rather than squabble over the “debt” why not turn to constructive conversations. This is a game-changer and another reason that Obama shows his innovation and forward thinking.

Colleges and trade schools will be held more accountable for ensuring the success of students. This will be a great bridge for children who aren’t mature enough for four-year learning environments. I learned with The Teen that turning 18 is being an adult in age only. Eighteen-year-olds are still goofy, still unsure, and a year out of hand-holding high school. There are some children who will embrace the four-year college system. There are some who need a little more time to get it together.

Higher education will be something that children will realize is attainable. At the moment two-year education does not have the same appeal as a four-year university. With affordable education available, students won’t need to figure out what’s next in their life. Taking some core courses in the community college with smaller class sizes and closer proximity to home, children will begin to get into a routine that will make the transition to a job, a career or any other milestone that much easier.

Americans will now be more competitive in the country as well as the global job market. Community college is a gateway for some students. It’s eye-opening, it offers new thoughts, it gets people out of their current comfort zone.

Students will begin to learn the cause and effect of their actions. Students who excelled in high school will realize that more effort is required in college. Skipping class is no longer a tee hee ditch, but money wasted and learning lost.

President Obama also proposed the new American Technical Training Fund, which will expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs across the country. This will include employee partnerships, provide accelerated training, work with those who work part time among other benefits.

For those who cry about debt, imagine the debt students have with school loans now. This program has the ability to prevent wasteful spending that is the current student loan program. It will also allow students to be better prepared to become employable and consumers.

As far as the complaint that some students may not graduate, let’s not be so pessimistic just yet. Students who are given assistance with mentors and lack of financial burdens, seem to be ready to make the next step to graduation and further success.

What are your thoughts about the President’s proposal?

Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.

Categories: MomSpeak