Obama outlines sweeping education reform in Tennessee

President_Barack_ObamaBy Zachary Toillion

On Thursday, the White House announced the plan that will be put forth by President Obama in his trip to Knoxville last Friday. The plan took many by surprise, as it dealt with the costs of higher education. Under Obama’s plan, the first two years of community college would be paid for under certain conditions. In order to qualify, students would have to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher and show progress toward the program being pursued by the student.

Describing the proposal the president stated, “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits,” adding, “It’s not just for kids.” Obama characterized his plan as making the first two years of community college “free for everybody who is willing to work for it.

Questions about the policy remain. Currently, the federal government partially subsidizes private education through Pell Grants, which can grant up to $5,730 per school year. It is unknown whether or not students would be eligible for both programs or how one would apply for such a program. It also remains unclear whether or not the program would be funded by the federal government, state government or both. The only thing that can be said with relative certainty is that Obama’s proposal will be a centerpiece of his domestic agenda proposals during the last two years of his presidency.

Obama’s proposal isn’t new. Similar programs exist in California, Oregon and Washington. European social democracies like Denmark, Finland, Norway and Scotland also offer similar programs. In many cases, governments subsidize 100 percent of higher education costs, seeing it as a crucial investment in the economy.

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