Since the beginning of this Administration, President Obama has vowed to make working families a priority and create ladders of opportunity, including an affordable education.
Community colleges offer not only a critical opportunity to earn a college degree, but serve as a prerequisite to meeting the demands of today’s competitive global economy. Serving over 7 million students, America’s more than 1,100 community colleges make up the backbone of our nation’s postsecondary education and training system. During his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama unveiled the America’s College Promise, a proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students. In his announcement, the President laid out a vision for free community college that can be achieved through shared responsibility from states, schools, employers, non-profits, students, and families.
At least 27 new free community college programs have launched in states, local communities, and individual community colleges since the President’s 2015 State of the Union address. Collectively, these new programs add over $70 million in new public and private investments to serve nearly 40,000 students at community colleges. Seventeen other states have introduced legislation to make community college free nation-wide.
States and communities are demonstrating that there is a range of thoughtful and effective ways to design tuition-free programs customized to local and state skills needs, funding opportunities, and shared community goals. This progress makes it clear that providing responsible students with a fair shot at attending a community college is a bipartisan issue – from Woodlands, TX to Los Angeles, CA – and that leaders from both sides of the aisle are paving the way for progress.
Here’s a look at what leaders from across the country are saying about their work to provide free community college for responsible students:
“By creating an endowment that guarantees free community college in perpetuity regardless of income or academic success, kindergarteners and their parents know that an opportunity for a better education and a better life is their destiny, and they can begin preparing themselves for it. The Tennessee Promise isn’t just a college access program, it fundamentally changes our states culture and what we can hope for and expect for ourselves and our children.”
Commissioner Randy Boyd
“I've received countless phone calls and letters from parents who've shared they had to tell their child they simply couldn't afford college; it's a heartbreaking conversation that no family should be forced to have. At a time when so many jobs require a college degree to even be considered, making higher education affordable and accessible to every student who earns admission is not just some fantasy – it's essential to our families and our economy.”
Assemblyman James Skoufis
“A year of community college is a lot cheaper than a lifetime of food stamps.”
Senator Mark Hass
“The Washington Promise is about giving Washingtonians access to the tools they need to fulfill their own potential. Access to two tuition free years of community or technical college will bridge the gap between need and skill in the workforce, build on already successful programs such as Washington’s College Bound Scholarship and create attainable rungs in the ladder of upward mobility for our young people looking to advance on a career path.”
Senator David Frockt
“Opening the door to free community college is a proven way to boost high school graduation rates and provide families with a ladder to improved careers and security.”
Representative Gerry Pollet
“The jobs of the 21st will require more than a high school diploma. Many family supporting jobs can be obtained through degrees from two-year community colleges. Americans should be able to achieve a middle class life without being buried under a mountain of student loan debt.”
Representative Cory Mason
“Universal access to higher education for Americans will provide a true way for us to improve our country. Free tuition for community college in America is a necessary first step that can help us to defeat chronic cycles of poverty, and in many cases defeat hopelessness, for vast numbers of our people. I'm honored to be a part of this movement with the President.”
Senator Josh Green