Financial Aid, Tuition

The Case For Free Community College

Early in 2015, President Obama announced his plan to make community college free. The plan is formally called “America’s College Promise,” and is based on the successful Tennessee program called the “Tennessee Promise.”


President Obama made the case for the program in a January speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee: “Here in America, we don’t guarantee equal outcomes, but we do expect that everybody gets an equal shot. We do expect everybody to go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them.”

What exactly is America’s College Promise?

According to the Obama Administration, the plan is to provide free community college to students for two years. There are, however, stipulations. The students:

  1. Must retain a grade-point average of at least 2.5
  2. Have to be enrolled at least half-time
  3. Must stay on track to graduate on time

The program is aimed at opening the doors to higher education to more students.

Why implement America’s College Promise?

While there are plenty of critics for this plan, there are many reasons why it should be implemented. They include:

  • The “Democratization of Higher Education”: The plan will allow everyone to attend community college as long as they meet the requirements. It has the potential, as demonstrated in Tennessee, to increase college enrollment. It will give the poorest and even middle class students a chance to obtain skills they need or want in order to succeed in the global economy.
  • Remove the debt load: Making community college free would reduce the overall debt load carried by students.
  • Reignite state spending on education: It is hoped that the plan will, if nothing else, encourage states to reinvest in education, replacing or even increasing the amount they have contributed in the last several years.
  • Increase enrollment at community colleges: By making the tuition free at community colleges, attendance by individuals who would otherwise be able to afford tuition will likely increase as well. The hope is that this will reduce the perceived stigma of community college, increase the legitimacy of two-year schools, and encourage the integration of students from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Produce a stronger economy: By attending community college, students will improve their skills and learn how to function in the economy. With a practical education, they can work to make the American economy strong.
  • Globally competitive workforce: With more students attending college and preparing to enter the U.S. and global workforce, America can maintain and solidify a strong foothold in the global economy.

Entering higher education is important for American families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthering education can increase a student’s mobility and flexibility in the workforce. An investment in “human capital” not only benefits individual students, but the nation’s workforce overall.

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.