NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Two years’ free college on the President’s agenda

Over the break President Obama announced that he plans to push for making the first two years of community college “free for everybody who’s willing to work for it.”

By working for it, he means that students receiving this funding will have to attend college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 or greater GPA, and “make steady progress toward completing a program,” the New York Times reports that White House officials said.

Obama discussed the plan in his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, in which he said that by the end of the decade, “Two in three job openings will require some higher education,” and said he hopes to make “two years of college as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

Obama’s plan is modeled after The Tennessee Promise, a program drafted by Republican Governor Bill Haslam. That program becomes available starting with the graduating high school class of 2015, and takes the form of a scholarship covering the remaining cost of tuition at state community colleges and technical schools after the value of any Pell grants and certain other scholarships students receive. Tennessee Promise students also have to complete eight hours of community service per semester, and maintain a 2.0 or greater GPA.

The Lowell Sun spoke to three community college administrators, including NECC President Lane Glenn, about the plan. Glenn agreed that the plan, if successfully implemented, would be a huge help to “some of the neediest [students] and also some of the students who can take this country the farthest,” but pointed out that similar plans have been attempted, and have failed, around the country including in Massachusetts.

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