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Obama wants to send Americans to community college for free

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Trying to get more students to college.
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If President Barack Obama has his way, about 9 million Americans will be getting associates degrees for free each year. He announced the proposed initiative on Jan. 8 (via a video shot on Air Force One).

“We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits,” said Obama.

If the plan ever becomes reality, it could help narrow the wealth gap. Data show a direct correlation between earnings and levels of education.

But Obama’s plan is short on details. The White House blog claims it would save community college students $3,800 in tuition on average. It says students would have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average (usually between a C+ and B—). In return, the federal government would cover three-fourths of the tab and the state would pick up the rest.

There are no details on how much all this will cost, or where the money to pay for it will come from. Even though the idea of free college is gathering steam in some states, Republicans in Congress may be loathe to green light more spending and some analysts are wary of how effective free tuition will be.

Obama is speaking later today in Tennessee, and may say more. At least he can hold up Tennessee as proof that his plan is viable. Under the Tennessee Promise, the state is helping to cover tuition and fees for students to attend community or technical college there.

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