January 9, 2015

As part of his early State of the Union unveiling, President Obama announced his plan to make two years of community college tuition-free for all students who maintain a GPA of 2.5 or better.

Under President Obama's new proposal, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor's degree, or earn the technical skills needed in the workforce -- all at no cost to them.

What students have to do:

Students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program.

What community colleges have to do: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that are either

1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or

2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.

What the federal government has to do: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. Participating states will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate the tuition for eligible students.

This would be a huge savings for families with college-age students. The costs of 4-year universities and colleges are nearly impossible for most middle-class families to afford. Community colleges are great vehicles for job training and completion of the first two years of a four-year degree.

But will Congress go along? That's the question.

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