WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on the Obama Administration’s proposal to make two years of community college free for qualifying students.
“Expanding access to college and making it more affordable is a ticket to the middle class for millions of students across the country, and I look forward to working with President Obama and my colleagues to make this goal a reality," said Senator Murray. "Our economy works best when we have a growing middle class and when our businesses can hire the educated and skilled employees they need to fill 21st century jobs—and federal investments like these are a key ingredient in broad-based and long-term economic growth that creates good jobs and strong businesses across the country. It was federal support that allowed me and my siblings to go to college, it was federal investments that educated millions of our Greatest Generation when they came home from war, and now we need to step up to make sure our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities we did in a global economy that has gotten a lot more competitive.”
More information on the Obama Administration’s proposal from the White House:
The Next Generation College program will create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college. Restructuring the community college experience, coupled with free tuition, can lead to gains in student enrollment, persistence, and completion transfer, and employment. Specifically, here is what the initiative will mean:
Enhancing Student Responsibility and Encouraging Student Persistence: Students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their program will have their tuition eliminated. 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.
Building High-Quality Community Colleges: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that either (1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or (2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers. Other types of programs will not be eligible for free tuition. Colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes, such as the effective Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) programs at the City University of New York which waive tuition, help students pay for books and metro costs, and provide academic advising and supportive scheduling programs to better meet the needs of participating students, resulting in greater gains in college persistence and degree completion.
Ensuring Shared Responsibility with States: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. States that choose to participate will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate community college tuition for eligible students. States that already invest more and charge students less can make smaller contributions, though all participating States will be required to put up some matching funds. States must also commit to continue existing investments in higher education; coordinate high schools, community colleges, and four-year universities to reduce the need for remediation and repeated courses; and allocate a significant portion of funding based on performance, not enrollment alone. States will have flexibility to use some resources to expand quality community college offerings, improve affordability at four-year public universities, and improve college readiness, through outreach and early intervention.