Community College Students & Blunt Assess Obama’s Free Community College Plan

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is expected to propose making community college free for students who graduate from high school.

It’s a plan that is already in place in Tennessee and could have a big impact on tens of thousands of people in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The plan aims to help increase the earning power of people in the work force.

Jason Fuller, a father of three, went back to school at Blue River Community College.

“I just kind of got tired of getting laid off,” he said.

He said he plans to get a full degree. An associate degree doesn’t hurt, but many people said it doesn’t fully bridge the wage gap.

The Obama community college plan is similar in some respects to the Missouri A+ high school program.

“They maintain a certain GPA. They do a certain amount of community service and meet certain requirements,” said Metropolitan Community Colleges Chancellor Mark James.

Community colleges already attract some students because of the lower cost and worries over long-term debt from college loans.

“If I would have put myself through school with student loan debt, I’d be paying it off until I was 40 or 50,” said Jakob Ganschow, who went to Blue River Community College.

The cost of the Obama plan, $60 billion over 10 years, has some people wondering about the plan, especially older, non-traditional students.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who used to be president of a small college, said he thinks other student finance reforms might be more effective. He and others doubt that the president’s free community college idea will pass through a Republican Congress, saying that the idea is in the right church, just not the right pew.

James said he’s happy that the president is talking about community colleges and he’s eager to hear more details in Tuesday evening’s speech.

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