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Changing landscape for two-year schools

In light of President Obama’s recent proposal to make community college free, it is still uncertain whether the two-year programs that will be offered at Georgia State via the Georgia State-Georgia Perimeter consolidation will qualify.

Proposed by President Obama, America’s College Promise would pay the full tuition of any student pursuing a two-year degree or certificate program.

Student Fatima Kanu said she spent just her freshman year at Georgia Gwinnett College before transferring to Georgia State but would have stayed another year if it had been free.

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“You’re getting the same education as someone here [Georgia State] but for a cheaper price. So you get two years, you get your core classes in, and when it’s time for your major classes, you’re coming to an institution that’s known.”

President Obama said he intends to focus on education in 2015 in a WhiteHouse.gov video released on Jan. 8.

“[Education] It’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits,” Obama said in the video.
Obama also said he desires to make significant changes to tuition at community colleges.

“Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody that’s willing to work for it,” Obama said.

During a speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee on Jan 9. the president officially marked the announcement of the America’s College Promise Proposal during a speech.

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Community colleges are important because they offer flexibility to students that are parents, veterans and have full-time jobs, Obama said during the speech.

“Whether you’re the first in your family to go to college or coming back to school after many years away, community colleges find a place for you. And you can get a great education,” he said.

Obama also said making this possible will be the result of everyone holding themselves to high academic standards. This includes students, schools and states.

“This isn’t a blank check. It’s not a free lunch. But for those willing to do the work and for states and local communities that want to be a part of this, it can be a game-changer,” Obama said.

Obama said he commends Tennessee and Chicago for recently implementing free tuition programs to community college students.

In 2014, Tennessee began the Tennessee Promise, offering free tuition to recent high school graduates to attend over forty of the state’s community colleges and technical schools, according to the program’s website.

Specifics of the promise

Currently over 40 percent of U.S. college students attend one of 1,100 community colleges nationwide, according to a fact sheet released by the White House website.

The sheet states in order to take advantage of the America’s College Promise funding students must be enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours and maintain a 2.5 GPA while making progress towards a two-year degree.

“These students will be able to earn half of the academic credit they need for a four-year degree or earn a certificate or two-year degree to prepare them for a good job,” the sheet states.

Three-quarters of the average cost of student’s community college tuition will be provided by the federal government. Participating states will be expected to cover the remaining 25 percent, according to the sheet.
The sheet also states community colleges participating in America’s College Promise will be required to provide curriculums with course credits that are fully transferable to four-year universities or certificate programs with high graduation rates.

The White House estimates that 9 million students would benefit from the America’s College Promise Proposal.

Two-year degrees at Georgia State

The University System of Georgia (USG) sets student tuition and fees for higher education institutions in the state and will most likely be responsible for qualifying the state of Georgia for the America’s College Promise Proposal, according to Associate VP of University Relations Andrea Jones.

Vice Chancellor of Communications for the USG said in a media response that under the Complete College Georgia initiative the USG is committed to increasing the number of students earning degrees.

“We are constantly exploring ways to help support students through college completion by expanding access and keeping costs down,” Sutlive said. “We anticipate learning more about the proposal, the specifics and what it may entail.”

If current students had the option Junior Wilma Elliott started at Georgia State as a freshman and said she has enjoyed coming out of high school and going straight to a four-year institution but would have considered attending a community college if it had been paid for by the government.

“I might have went to community college because I feel like even after coming to Georgia State, it’s really expensive,” said Elliott. “You get a different experience but you get the same information that you need.”

Elliot also said it would be difficult for her to weigh the benefits of two free years of schooling against missing out on the four-year college experience.

“On the other hand, I think it’s a great experience though, coming out of high school and coming to a university,” she said.

Jessica Lewis, also enrolled at Georgia State as a freshman, said she most likely would have gone to a free two-year institution.

“I probably would have gone to a community college because Georgia State is a little bit more expensive than being free,” Lewis said.

She also said if a free school had been an option available to her at the time, her family would also have encouraged her to be financially responsible.

“My parents are all about wanting me to not be in debt whenever I get out of college, so they definitely would have said stay home for two years and then go to the school that you like,” Lewis said.

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