Obama proposes $60 billion free community college plan

President Barack Obama talks to a crowd of 3,000 about the price and worth of a college education at the field house on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Friday, January 27, 2012. (Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

U.S. President Barrack Obama wants to give students free college education if they are willing to work for it. 

On Jan. 9, 2015 Obama unveiled the America College Promise proposal during a speech in Knoxville, Tenn. It would offer students two years of community college education, earning the first half of their bachelor's degree at no cost. He plans to push the proposal, which needs support from Congress, at his Jan. 20 State of the Union address. 

The program was estimated to cost the federal government $60 billion over the next 10 years. 

"This proposal will require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate," read a White House press release.

Obama asks that community colleges, their supporting municipalities and students themselves work harder to strengthen their schools, and get better grades. He proposes that the federal government will cover 3/4 of the average cost of the community college. 

States will be expected to contribute the remaining funds, based on how much money they already invested in the schools. 

Students maintaining a 2.5 grade point average who are registered for at least halftime enrollment will have their tuition eliminated. 

Partnerships between the states and the corresponding colleges would be necessary for the program. According to the release, the proposal was inspired by similar programs in Tennessee and Chicago. 

The White House estimates that if all states participate in the program 9 million students will benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. 

Community colleges are asked to maintain high transfer agreements with four-year schools, while also providing occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to high-demand jobs.  

The Michigan Community College Association voiced support of the program in a Dec. 9 press release. 

"Obama's proposal has great potential for minimizing the financial barrier to access and increasing the number of adults with credential and degrees of value," said Mike Hansen, president of the MCCA. "College costs are a major concern for access and success in postsecondary education."

Hansen said just 36.8 percent of Michganders ages 25 to 64 have an "associate's degree or higher." 

The statement went on to explain that with Michigan ranking in the top 10 in the nation for average debt levels among college graduates, "Obama's proposal could have a significant impact on increasing access to community colleges while also minimizing the financial barrier to a bachelor's degree."