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Students believe Obama's free college proposal shows promise  August 6, 2020 – 09:59 pm
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Christian Jones won the lottery — a genetic lottery, of sorts.

Born with a college instructor for a father, he was given a rare gift: two free years of community college at his father’s employer, Saint Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich.

Transferring to Oakland University in 2012 to complete his bachelor’s degree in communication, Jones entered OU with an Associate of the Arts degree and transfer credits in tow, all completely free of charge.

Despite graduating what the Wall Street Journal called the “Most Indebted Ever” class, , Jones turned his tassel last spring with $7, 000 in student loans — a stark contrast to the $33, 000 burden of the average American graduate in the Class of 2014.

“Hands down, it was one of the best choices I have ever made, ” he says.

And if all 50 states elect to implement President Obama’s America’s College Promise — a proposal teased Thursday on Facebook which would provide American students two years of free community college for “anybody who’s willing to work for it” — Jones could potentially be joined by nine million eligible students in receiving free education.

According to a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, part-time and full-time community college students who “make steady progress toward completing their program” and maintain a 2.5 GPA will be eligible for the program, provided their state chooses to adopt the proposal.

Federal funding will cover $3, 800 per student — three-quarters of the average cost of community college — while participating states will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate tuition for eligible students.

Central Michigan University student Nicole Bidolli said she would “definitely consider” the program if she could take a step back in time. Studying kinesiology and exercise science, the senior spent her entire undergraduate career at the university, but says were it free, she would elect to attend a community college first.

“I think that’s the smarter way and I wish I would have done that or had the option, ” she says. “[The first two years] are typically when everyone takes gen eds and figures out what they want to major in.”

Kaylee Kean, a senior studying journalism at Oakland University, received more than two years of free college credit through her hybrid high school-to-college program with the Saint Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency in Port Huron, Mich. Allowing her to simultaneously earn high school and college credits, the program provided her with room to change her major at OU from music performance to journalism and still graduate a year ahead of schedule, saving her thousands in tuition.

She says she thinks the White House’s proposal “could work, ” but only if it’s monitored. “I appreciate college more now because I have to work harder to pay for it, so I think it should only go to those who are willing to actively work at it, ” she says.

For Tracey Lo, a junior studying electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, the experience she has had at a four-year university outweighs any benefit she sees of transferring from a community college.

“I think this is a great opportunity for a ton of people, ” she says, “but now that I’ve seen what attending a four-year university can do for me, I can’t go back.”

The President is scheduled to introduce the proposal in Tennessee today as part of a three-state tour to preview next week’s State of the Union Address.


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