JRNM 151 students

It’s no secret that people now more than ever are realizing that if they wish to obtain a job that doesn’t require them to say “may I take your order,” they need a college degree. At Lorain County Community College students come from all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to reach some level of higher education, some of them even working part-time jobs or being full-time parents. In President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address on Jan. 20, he pitched a plan for college students that centered on making two years of community college free.

A free post-secondary education can be a determining factor in high school graduates’ decisions to further their education, whether it be at a community college or a four-year university. However, universities and private colleges can be quite challenging to attend based on financial reasons, with a vast majority of students requiring some type of government assistance or financial aid.

With President Obama’s proposal to send people to community college tuition free for the first two years, the path to acquiring a degree could become less of a challenge and more of an attainable goal.

The proposal, called “America’s College Promise”, has the goal of helping students earn one half of their Bachelor’s degree and acquire skills needed to enter the workforce field at no cost to them. If all fifty states in the country participate in this plan, two million part-time and full-time college students would save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year, according to a press release from the office of the White House Press Secretary.

In order for this plan to work, students, community colleges, and federal governments would have to fulfill certain requirements, as laid out by President Obama himself.

The duty of a student involves maintaining a GPA of at least 2.5 and showing consistent advancement in making strides to complete their degree / program. A community college has the obligation of providing one of two mandatory implementations; academic programs with credits that transfer completely over to four-year universities and colleges or occupational training programs possessing high graduation rates that lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Federal governments would provide funding covering three-quarters of tuition costs for the average community college, while states will have the obligation to supply the remaining funds needed in order to ensure there is no cost to qualifying students.

The plan may be the breakthrough many students need in order to begin their pursuit for a degree. From students to faculty, enthusiasm for the possibility of students acquiring a free two-year education has been expressed supported at LCCC.

“In terms of any program, whether it’s from federal or the state that helps reduce the cost for students to attend college we would be supportive and would hope to have the opportunity to design and be part of the creation of such a plan,” said Tracy Green, LCCC vice president of strategic and institutional development.

“I’m all for [the proposal],” said Cassandra Howell, an LCCC student in her second year of the nursing program. “I like the idea of free education because with the country already in so much debt and the lack of good paying jobs right now, any little bit will help.”

Howell is no different than the majority of students at LCCC in her reasoning behind attending a local community college. Even though the cost of education at LCCC is much more affordable than a major university, she says she’s still receiving financial aid and grants to pay her way through school.

“I thought about going anywhere else to college. I wanted to get the full college experience, but knew it was going to cost too much,” she said.

Zaineb Rafi, an engineering major, expressed similar views.

“I feel that it’s a great idea because I feel that the government puts off international students,” she said. “Most people don’t know that students from different countries pay three times more than the average American student.”

“I like being able to go to community college for cheap, but sometimes I feel I miss out on the experiences students get at other colleges,” said Devon Hill, a second-year student majoring in communications. “If I could save up for two years and transfer, I feel like I would get to experience both ways of college.”

Along with this proposal is the ‘American Technical Training Fund’ designed to augment innovative and high-quality technical training programs, as stated in the fact sheet of The White House. This plan’s intention lies in ensuring workers are adequately trained and prepared to meet the needs and requirements of today’s employers.

Alex Delaney-Gesing and JRNM-151 students Gabe Garcia, John Goold, Arieyauna Little, Torence Madison, Austin Remo, Reagan Sender and Maddie Stevanus contributed to this report.