The New York Times reported recently that President Obama is proposing a program whereby community college attendance would be free to as many as 9 million students as a way of combating income inequality.
It would be funded by a 75%/25% split between federal and state governments and is estimated to cost $60 billion over 10 years. The Times article went on to state that the program,
"would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average — about a C-plus — and who make steady progress toward completing a program. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields."
The program is modeled after one in Tennessee called Tennessee Promise, which is described as a "last dollar" scholarship designed to provide assistance after all other options have been exhausted, such as federal Pell Grants.
In contrast, the President is proposing a program whereby money would be provided to pay tuition costs up front before other plans are brought to bear.
Is This Program a Good Idea?
I counsel all of my clients struggling to pay for the education of their children that community college can be a great way of saving on education costs. They are often far less expensive than four year colleges and can make graduating from one far more affordable.
In an op-ed piece written about the President's proposal, Tom Hanks related his great experiences with community college and provided much needed encouragement for this educational path. If it worked for him, it can work for you!
However, the President's plan may not be something that is needed as much as it might appear. Existing programs through the U.S. Department of Education already provide assistance through Pell and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants that can be used to afford community college tuition. After that, money can be borrowed at favorable interest rates through the Stafford loan program, that can be repaid after graduation through affordable, income based plans.
Low income people can still get a great college education by taking advantage of what community colleges have to offer and paying for it with existing programs from the Department of Education. If you are looking for ways to do this, check out these resources:
- The Best Federal Financial Aid Options for College
- Why Federal Grants Are Crucial To Your Financial Aid Plan
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