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Should community college be free?

by AirTalk®

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US President Barack Obama screams 'Zot, Zot, Zot', as he makes the symbols of the Anteater, the mascot for the University of California-Irvine, after delivering the commencement address in Irvine, California, June 14, 2014. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is in Tennessee today, announcing a plan to make community college free for many students. The federal government would cover 75% of tuition costs for students who maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and enroll at least half time. Students would also need to steadily track toward a degree within 3 years. Colleges would commit to offering credits that can transfer to 4 year schools or vocational programs that students are likely to finish. In short, there would be some strings attached.

For students in California, community college is already cheap by national standards. That has boosted enrollment compared to other state systems. But while low cost draws more students, many do not complete a program, have trouble accessing classes that provide transferrable credit, and do not quickly complete associates degrees or certificate programs.

And yet, as tuition -- and associated student debt -- have dramatically risen at public and private institutions, community college and vocational programs hold additional appeal for students who have trouble accessing higher cost education.  

How likely is the proposal to pass in this Congressional environment? And what impact does free tuition have on student engagement and completion?


Libby Nelson, Vox reporter

Brice Harris, Chancellor of California Community Colleges

Andrew P. Kelly, Director of the Center on Higher Education reform at the American Enterprise Institute

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