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Obama Proposes Free College: An Easier Goal Than You Might Expect

News & Politics, Political-Opinion
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference and expo in Chicago October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference and expo in Chicago October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Obama’s Plan: Free College

Air-Force One hovers at a steady 39,000 feet as light turbulence buffets the sides, the sound echoing within the hull. President Obama, dressed down in buttoned white shirt and tie, sits upon red cherry wood or cedar wood or pine wood, whatever type of wood makes up the Presidents personnel desk. He looks into the camera, an eager tiredness about his eyes, a tiredness born from working one of the worlds most stressful jobs. He was there for a message, a message to those looking for a higher education.

“Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” Huffington Post quotes President Obama.

The statement that higher education should be free might come to many as a surprise, but in a society that has been built off of free, public education, is it that far of a stretch to make some part of community college free?

Details on this would be revolutionary idea have not been published, but Obama stated that states would have the ability to opt in or out. Also, the benefits would help more than nine million young Americans gain early year college education at an average saving cost of $3,800. The Huffington Post reports on David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, who said that the investment is a fantastic idea and that he fully endorses helping young Americans attend community college.

One problem cited would be the decrease in enrollment to more prestigious universities, however, would that really be an issue? Students who have the grades to attend those schools will still search out scholarships and enroll. Plus, the program only offers the first two years of college free, so students who wish to advance would still have to pay for majority of their education. This could actually be a boon to university enrollment since young Americans are able to get their foot in the door in a stress free way. The “I’ve went this far” attitude might be a defining factor here. Also, do not forget as the country grows in technology, so does the need for an educated population, and this plan might be the saving grace for that outcome. Not to mention every Associate Degree requires credits involving American History and Government so the program could lead to a smarter voter base overall.

The second problem cited is, of course, money. Where would the funding come from? Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a law early this year that created a scholarship funded by state lottery proceeds that allows students to attend community college free for two years. Haslam was quoted by the Huffington Post saying, “the program will increase the pool of students,” in response to opposition claiming the program will divert students from four-year colleges. Increasing the pool of students means it will increase the potential of students enrolling in those four year universities.

Currently, in a Republican owned House and Senate that shows the largest Republican majority since the 71st Congress, a bill on this issue coming to the floor will most likely go no-where. Though, Republicans have been known to take education seriously and the state of Tennessee, the first state to implement this type of legislation, is governed by a Republican. So, there still might be a chance for advancement in this realm. Cory Fritz, press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said to Huffington Post that, “With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan.” If the Obama Administration can pull off an impressive bill that cuts the budget in the right places and can keep the deficit steady, then there might be a change in how Americans view education. But, for now, America waits.

If the above legislation does go no-where in the upcoming years, do not fret! A college education is still an easy thing to obtain. If you have the will to achieve it, the internet provides the perfect medium for you to gain an education for a small percent of the cost of tuition.

Obama Speaks on the College Issue: 1/21/15

In a move to open up conversation with a Republican House and Senate, President Obama delivered his State of the Union. He used examples of Tennessee’s success to fuel his argument for free community college on a federal level.

“Forty percent of our college students choose community college,” PBS News Hour quoted Obama. “Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”

His plan involves higher taxes on the top earners in the country to pay for the tuition costs. 75% of those costs will be covered by the federal government. The states will be required to pay the other 25%.

The idea of free community college has risen some questions: would it be granted to low income only families? Will it be a motivating factor for students? At the current moment, only 15% of students who attend community college go onto finishing a bachelors degree. That, of course, does not take into account the reasoning behind not continuing their education. Most would say that finances drive the biggest impact. If tuition is free then the money used for tuition can go to books and other expenses.

Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, stated the plan offers only a federal reform agenda “dressed up as free tuition” while others; such as Josh Wyner, director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, who said it would help close the wealth gap in the country.

All in all, the plan has potential. If the nooks and crannies fit, and the President and Congress can work out their differences, America might see better education.

The World of Open Courseware

What is open courseware?

Open Courseware are free websites run by Universities that offer full college classes online for free. The only thing you need is the time and motivation to complete the course material.

MIT, Americas leading math and science university, has been ranked #1 for its outstanding courseware set up. They offer a plethora of classes for undergraduate and graduate programs alike. Here is a list of the top 10 ranked Open Courseware websites:

University of Michigan
John Hopkins
Harvard Medical
Carnegie Mellon
Tuft University
Notre Dame
UC Berkeley

As you can see, this list comprises of some of the best schools the United States has to offer, and the amount of recorded lectures, work books, and study guides they offer give you a sense that you are truly in college.

Now that you know about open courseware, how do you go about getting your actual degree?

  1. Enroll into the proper classes for your major in open courseware.
  2. Study. Know the material like the back of your hand.
  3. Schedule a test called a College Level Examination Program test. Or CLEP.
  4. Pass the test.

CLEP tests are there for students to test out of specific material they feel strong in. There are differing requirements for each test that come with differing prices per University, so some research is needed. Most tests cost between $30-$100. This means, if you pass the test the first time, you gain credit for a $300-$600 class for a fraction of that cost.

So start CLEPPING!

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