the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The President Proposes to Make Community College Free for Responsible Students for 2 Years

The President unveils the America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost.
President Obama delivers remarks on college affordability at Pellissippi State Community College

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, delivers remarks on college affordability at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete -- by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades' worth of student debt.

The numbers:

If all 50 states choose to implement the President's new community college proposal, it could:

  • Save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average
  • Benefit roughly 9 million students each year

Under President Obama's new proposal, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor's degree, or earn the technical skills needed in the workforce -- all at no cost to them.

The requirements:

  • What students have to do: Students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program.
  • What community colleges have to do: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that are either 1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.
  • What the federal government has to do: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. Participating states will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate the tuition for eligible students.

Expanding technical training programs:

President Obama also proposed the new American Technical Training Fund, which will expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs across the country. Specifically, the fund will award programs that:

  • Have strong employer partnerships and include work-based learning opportunities
  • Provide accelerated training
  • Accommodate part-time work

Read the full fact sheet on the President's proposal here.