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Jan 20th 2015

What Barack Obama's Free Community Colleges Means for Students


obamas free community colleges for students

 President of the United States (POTUS) Barack Obama has taken the “Drive to 55” also known as the “Tennessee Promise” program that originated by the hands of Republican Governor Bill Haslam and casted the net out to the remaining forty-nine states. The POTUS is eying the potential benefits of 9 million additional graduates with less debt in the American work force as a bigger necessity than the burden this will place on the Nations major debt crises and other minor obstacles, in relativity, to see this plan through.

 These are the characteristics of the original Tennessee promise and Obama's proposed expansion which will be spoken of more in depth on Tuesday, January 20th at the State of the Union Address:

 Obama's proposal is coming at an opportune time since the “Drive to 55” has been prepared, approved and is slated to begin for the fall semester of 2015. Since the “Promise” is just getting underway only time will tell if it will be a great success or another higher education failure.

Con – Who pays for those who fail?

 The 12 credit minimum is easily recognized as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid minimum to receive Federal Aid; however, 12 credits may be be too low since it doesn't demand as much time of the students. Research shows that students largely fail in community college because of the precedent placed on job and family responsibilities.

 The program would be better served modeling Haslam's; therefore, requiring students to take 15 credits so more time is focused towards succeeding in school.

 The Federal and State Governments will pay for the failures who don't uphold the student requirements. It is unknown if there will be any financial repercussions for the students who start the program but do not see it through.

Pro – “Freedom isn't free.” – American Idiom

 Obama made it clear that he wants Community Colleges to be free “for everyone who is willing to work for it.” As we all know, freedom isn't free and this will require hard work on three levels.

 The first level will be on Federal and State Governments to supply the 75% and remaining 25% respectively to provide the free tuition. The second level is responsibilities of the Community Colleges, whereas they will have to adjust academic programs that fully transfer credits to universities and create or build upon their occupation programs in high-demand areas of degrees and certificates with high-graduation rates such computer analysts, registered nurses, retail sales managers, web development, software engineers and truck drivers. Lastly like all other major life endeavors will require hard work to be deemed deserving. The students have to maintain the 2.5 GPA requirement while enrolled in a 12 credit minimum.

 Success of this plan will only be achieved if all three parties do their part sufficiently.

Con – Starting with a cracked foundation

 It is a widely known fact that community colleges are struggling.

 They have less resources to work with, which translates to not having a large enough staff of academic advisors to help students make the transition from high school to college smoother. This in turn leads to students getting caught in a vicious cycle of not knowing how to find the appropriate major for them or where to start with their courses if they have a major set out.

 Statistics show only 15% of students graduate after 6 years of college (2 years at community and 4 years at a university) and there are questions if this program will help increase that percentage.

 Haslam's plan has one up on the current state of Obama's plan because of the additional layer of actively seeking for qualified mentors who can help 5-10 high school seniors with their post-secondary success.

Pro – Potential Upside is Enormous

 Obama's proposed program can change the statistics forever.

 By focusing on all three major levels and getting the community colleges the resources they need to make them better institutions you can make major progress on the amount of students who finish their degree because of the increased transferability of credits to the 4 year university.

 Many students get discouraged when they complete two years at a community college only to find out that their “transfer” to a university is more like an enrollment and they have to start at 0 credits or very close to it, as though their time spent at the community college didn't even occur.

 The possibility of the additional help from volunteer mentors, who of course, would be trained and approved to help students navigate the academic programs that are available to them will help every student speak to someone so that their desires can be thoroughly evaluated and their plans appropriately plotted. This will help streamline the transfer of students to their chosen universities, graduation and those in-demand careers.

Con – What type of message is sent if this is denied?

 If Obama's proposed program is denied by the legislative branch that is now ruled in majority by Republicans, a program that is modeled after Republican Gov. Haslam's plan, what kind of message are you sending?

 The stratification in the system could get worse, even to the point of failure; whereas, failure here means the closure of community colleges due to enrollment dropping so much that revenue can no longer sustain the colleges. Secondly it could strengthen the belief that the higher education system is only for those who can afford it to an all-time high.

 If the program is denied, the Federal Government is telling the middle-class and low-income students that their education is not important to the future success of this country. They would also be sending the message to families of any economic background that if you want to get an education, you'll have to pay for it.

 The argument is also made that there are a lot of grants and scholarships available to students of a lower economic background but in reality there aren't enough to go around. The process of applying and being denied or never hearing back from scholarship and grant providers only hurts the students willingness to continue pursuing their education. Instead they continue to feel like their isn't enough funding to make it possible.

Pro – Increase Higher Education's Socioeconomic Integration

 Almost 90 percent of high school students in Tennessee have enrolled into this program for two major reasons. Everyone understands “free;” therefore, low-income students who would've otherwise chose to go directly to the work force for minimum wage jobs that require no degree of skills, only a high school diploma are now enrolling in college.

 Secondly middle and upper-income students are taking a second look at community college because of this program, knowing that in the long run it will help them save much more money and finish with approximately half of the debt that they would've otherwise had to deal with jumping straight from high school to a 4-year university.

 Everyone understands “free,” and by increasing the appeal of community colleges to students of economic background you'll increase the socioeconomic integration. Having it start in community colleges now will in a minimum of 2 years time after the implementation of the program will increase socioeconomic integration in 4-year universities and subsequentally the American work force.

 The aims of this have not been made clear but one can only speculate that it will foster a better understanding between students of different economic backgrounds. It could potentially create students with a head and heart set on fixing the economic disparity plaguing America through friendships built in those classrooms.

 With the current economic system, knowing that it relies upon the amount of people who are in the work force and contributing to the nation's finances, it is of the utmost importance to continue to develop high school graduates into college graduates all across the nation, not just in Tennessee.

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