Something seems to have gotten into Obama recently. In just the last couple weeks, he's made a string of big, bold new announcements — and the hits keep on coming. The latest came last night, via video: He’s planning to make the first two years of community college free. You know, for everybody.
There are some caveats: Students have to be in school at least half-time, keep up a 2.5 GPA (a C+ or so), and progress “toward completing their program.” The burden would be a little higher on the community colleges, some of which have been criticized in the aftermath of the recession for preying on vulnerable students by charging unaffordable tuition for useless degrees or certificates.
Schools would need to offer transferable credits that can be applied to a four-year degree, or educate students in occupational-training programs “with high graduation rates” in high-demand fields. The schools would also have to adopt certain educational reforms that haven’t been spelled out by the administration just yet.
President Obama made the announcement last night aboard Air Force One (above), and he'll talk more about it in a speech Friday afternoon as one of several previews of the State of the Union address later this month.
Obama says the program could save about 9 million students $3,800 in tuition a year.
Will it happen? Well, given how Obama proposes to fund it, maybe not. He’s said 75% of the program’s cost would be borne by the federal government, with the states picking up the remainder of the tab. Getting that kind of proposal through a Republican-majority Congress could be a long shot.
Whether or not it can make it through Congress, the proposal is a pretty bold idea. Despite the fact that Obama’s riding out the last two years of his presidency with a Republican majority in Congress — or maybe because of it — he’s been acting pretty darn presidential lately, what with that whole executive order on immigration and the announcement of normalized relations with Cuba. Looks like all those years of gridlock finally got to him and, as he’s put it several times recently, the bear is loose. Are you starting to feel hopeful again?