Saturday, 10 January 2015

Obama proposes free college tuition for first 2 years

Just when Pyne and Abbott are poised to turn our higher education system into something resembling the system in the US, President Obama comes up with this.
From Huffington Post

Some 9 million Americans could attend community college tuition-free under a proposal President Barack Obama announced Friday.

Obama's plan, which is subject to approval by Congress and depends on the participation of state governments, would dedicate some $60 billion over the next decade to defray tuition and fees for anyone who attends school at least half-time, maintains a roughly C+ average, and is on track to complete their program or transfer to a four-year school. The federal government would kick in about 75 percent of the cost, while participating states would pick up the rest. For the neediest students, Pell grants would help pay for transportation, room and board, and other costs associated with attending college.

Student advocates said the plan could boost college enrollment, slow the growth of student debt, put dodgy for-profit colleges out of business, and force schools, state governments and local governments to dedicate more resources to helping students attain a college degree.

Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today,” Obama said. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, said on Twitter: “Just as free K-12 education is an educational and civil right, #FreeCommunityCollege should be as well.”

It faces an uphill climb. Influential Washington Republicans immediately pounced on the idea, dismissing it as federal overreach. Congress has declined to approve previous community college-oriented proposals from the Obama administration. There is also continued strain placed on college student graduates trying to manage huge student loans with little support or respite.

The plan does nothing for existing students. As a result of reduced state funding for higher education and recent moves by Washington to reduce federal spending, those students have had to contend with a shrinking pot of money to aid them as they complete their degrees. It also fails to help borrowers with student loans, of which there are 40 million who collectively carry more than $ 1.3 trillion in unpaid education debts.

“As a borrower with student loan debt, I am still awaiting the proposal that will help existing borrowers like me,” said Natalia Abrams, executive director of the activist group Student Debt Crisis.

Experts said his plan could also help lower-income students overcome the perception that college was out of reach.“This sends a clear message that community college is an affordable option for all students. Even though tuition and fees make up a small portion of the total cost of attendance -- and it is unclear if all students will see additional savings from this plan -- telling students early on that tuition will be free may induce more to prepare for college and eventually enroll,” said Robert Ketchen, a professor at Seton Hall University who specializes in higher education finance.

To Ben Miller, a former adviser to Arne Duncan, one of the plan’s best features lies in the message it sends to states, namely that they can’t keep cutting funding for higher education.

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