Free college for all?

Obama recently announced the “College Promise,” an initiative that would make two years of community college free for recent high school graduates.

In an ideal world, where the grass is always green and the sky is always blue, this would be amazing. But in reality, the chances of this proposal passing through our Republican-controlled Congress, with members who have already expressed their criticism and denounced support of the plan, seem pretty close to none.

But let’s dream for a moment.

College is too expensive. Anyone that has attended college would likely agree. And if you ever forget, Sallie Mae will call and remind you.

As a community college student who files a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) each year and receives a Pell grant, I can attest to the fact that it still isn’t enough to cover my costs. Between tuition, fees and books, I still end up signing my life over to Sallie each semester to borrow and add on to an expensive and ever-growing loan to make up the difference.

And I’m only a part-time student.

Higher education, whether it be a college degree, certificate or technical training, has become increasingly important, and almost vital to entering the workforce. Once students graduate, many are already burdened with a mountain of debt before they even get their first paycheck.

Doesn’t it seem counterproductive for someone to work to pay off the money that they paid for an education to be able to work?

And what about students who don’t even bother aspiring to go to college because they don’t think it’s financially feasible? This initiative could help low-income or disadvantaged students overcome the perception that college is out of reach by putting it within reach.

In countries like Germany, Sweden, Norway and France, Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free), according to The Washington Post. But beginning in the fall of 2015, students won’t have to cross an ocean for a free college education – provided they live in the state of Tennessee or the city of Chicago.

In Tennessee, with the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, students will be able to attend any of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institutions offering an associate degree program. In Chicago, with the Chicago Star Scholarship, students will be able to attend any City College of Chicago (CCC), provided they meet the eligibility requirements, such as a 3.0 GPA.

President Obama based his plan off of the Tennessee Promise.

Despite the fact that these scholarships have eligibility requirements, I think a guaranteed post-secondary education will be incentive to work hard to meet these requirements. It’s human nature to work for reward. And if a student is willing to work hard to get the grades to get into college, then I feel like they should be given access to the opportunity.

Only time will tell how beneficial these programs turn out to be, but they are a big step in the right direction. Hopefully more cities and states follow suit.

“Every student who is willing to work hard should have access to a quality education, regardless of whether they can afford it or not,” said Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago.

I second that notion.

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