Clark Officials Offer Insight on Obama Community College Proposal

By Kailan Manandic in News

8390033709_6bc928ecf4_kClark officials are calling President Barack Obama’s proposal to make community college tuition-free nationwide “historic” and say they are looking forward to more information about the plan.

“This is likely the biggest news for community colleges since the creation of the G.I. Bill,” said Tim Cook, vice president of Instruction at Clark.

“The opportunity for every high school graduate to get a free community college education is unprecedented in the United States,” Cook said.

Obama announced plans on Friday to invest $60 billion over the next 10 years to make community college free for any high school graduate who maintains a 2.5 GPA and attends at least part time. In his announcement, Obama said he wants to make community college “as free and universal as a high school is today.”

If approved by Congress, the program could potentially benefit 9 million students, saving them thousands of dollars on yearly tuition fees, according to a news release from the White House.

“This isn’t a blank check,” Obama said. “But for those willing to do the work, and for states and local communities that want to be a part of this, it can be a game-changer.”

Clark officials said they are unsure how the plan would play out locally. “It is too early to say,” Cook said.  He added, “I would anticipate an influx of students but time will tell.”

The plan received a lot of positive attention but it has hurdles before it can become a reality. “It is difficult to see how this idea will pass Congress and if it does how it will be funded,” Cook said.

Clark officials said they are waiting for more information because details are still vague.  The New York Times reported the president will detail his proposal during his State of the Union address on Jan. 20.

“There are still many areas of clarity that must be addressed for us to fully understand this proposal,” said Bill Belden, vice president of Student Affairs at Clark.

“Free tuition is important, but the cost of a college education goes far beyond tuition,” Belden said.

While the Obama administration is trying to drum up support for the proposal Clark officials said they are excited it’s bringing attention to community colleges.
“The proposal being discussed is historic and engages the nation in a conversation about the important work being done at community colleges,” Belden said. “I am optimistic this dialogue will broaden awareness of the benefits of studying at community colleges and will result in more applications for admission.”

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