Obama’s free college tuition plan sends a ‘powerful’ message

President Barack Obama’s new proposal to make two years of community college free for millions of students across the country sends a “powerful” message, Latino education advocates say. “I think it’s such a powerful, good message that college is possible and can be covered,” Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, said in an interview with VOXXI. The proposal is dubbed “America’s College Promise.” But before the initiative can be implemented, Obama needs to get the approval of Congress. If approved, the plan could potentially benefit up to 9 million students of all ages, saving them an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. To qualify,  students would need to attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA and make “steady progress” toward their degree. SEE ALSO: Closing educational achievement gaps would grow the U.S. economy However, Santiago pointed out that undocumented students would likely not benefit given that federal funds would cover three-quarters of tuition under the plan, while states would pick up the rest of the tab. Under current law, undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid. “I do think they should benefit,” Santiago said, referring to undocumented students. “The more educated our citizenry, the better.” When asked if undocumented students would benefit, an administration official told VOXXI the president’s plan “is the start of the conversation on how to make two years of college the norm the way high school is the norm.” “We still need to work with Congress on the details of this proposal but the goal is to provide as much access to higher education as possible,” the official said in an email. “And we still need comprehensive immigration reform that fixes our immigration system and provides an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to ensure that all students have the opportunities they need to succeed.” Obama announced the new proposal through a White House video posted on Facebook Thursday evening. He planned to discuss the details of the proposal alongside Vice President Joe Biden and second lady Jill Biden during a visit to Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday. “What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said in the video filmed on Air Force One. “It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that’ll train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.” SEE ALSO: Miami Dade College president has the formula to boost graduation rates The president’s proposal comes as welcoming news for Latinos, many of whom begin their higher education journey at a community colleges. According to a fact sheet by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), 51 percent of Hispanic undergraduate students attend two-year institutions, compared to 41.7 percent of all undergraduates. The group also noted that of the 370 Hispanic-serving institutions in 2012, an estimated 48 percent were public two-year institutions. Antonio Flores, president and CEO of HACU, said he applauds Obama’s new plan to offer a free community college education for all eligible students. “Investing in this initiative would strengthen the country’s workforce and increase opportunities for underrepresented populations to seek a college education,” Flores said in a statement to VOXXI. “Hispanics would particularly benefit from such initiative as a majority of those in college attend community colleges.” Like Flores, Santiago also said many Latino students would benefit from this new opportunity. But she also said students need to keep in mind that other costs of going to college—like housing, transportation and books—wouldn’t be covered by this new proposal. “I do want to make sure that students understand that sometimes the cost of going to college aren’t just tuition and fees,” she said. “Often, those bigger costs are everything else.” SEE ALSO: Student loan debt weighing down young LatinosThe post Obama’s free college tuition plan sends a ‘powerful’ message appeared first on Voxxi.

President Barack Obama speaks about home purchases and refinancing at Central High School in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 8, 2015. That same day, he announced through a video a new plan to allow students to attend two years of community college for free. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s new proposal to make two years of community college free for millions of students across the country sends a “powerful” message, Latino education advocates say.

“I think it’s such a powerful, good message that college is possible and can be covered,” Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, said in an interview with VOXXI.

The proposal is dubbed “America’s College Promise.” But before the initiative can be implemented, Obama needs to get the approval of Congress. If approved, the plan could potentially benefit up to 9 million students of all ages, saving them an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. To qualify,  students would need to attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA and make “steady progress” toward their degree.

SEE ALSO: Closing educational achievement gaps would grow the U.S. economy

However, Santiago pointed out that undocumented students would likely not benefit given that federal funds would cover three-quarters of tuition under the plan, while states would pick up the rest of the tab. Under current law, undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid.

“I do think they should benefit,” Santiago said, referring to undocumented students. “The more educated our citizenry, the better.”

When asked if undocumented students would benefit, an administration official told VOXXI the president’s plan “is the start of the conversation on how to make two years of college the norm the way high school is the norm.”

“We still need to work with Congress on the details of this proposal but the goal is to provide as much access to higher education as possible,” the official said in an email. “And we still need comprehensive immigration reform that fixes our immigration system and provides an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to ensure that all students have the opportunities they need to succeed.”

Obama announced the new proposal through a White House video posted on Facebook Thursday evening. He planned to discuss the details of the proposal alongside Vice President Joe Biden and second lady Jill Biden during a visit to Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday.

“What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said in the video filmed on Air Force One. “It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that’ll train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”

SEE ALSO: Miami Dade College president has the formula to boost graduation rates

The president’s proposal comes as welcoming news for Latinos, many of whom begin their higher education journey at a community colleges. According to a fact sheet by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), 51 percent of Hispanic undergraduate students attend two-year institutions, compared to 41.7 percent of all undergraduates. The group also noted that of the 370 Hispanic-serving institutions in 2012, an estimated 48 percent were public two-year institutions.

Antonio Flores, president and CEO of HACU, said he applauds Obama’s new plan to offer a free community college education for all eligible students.

“Investing in this initiative would strengthen the country’s workforce and increase opportunities for underrepresented populations to seek a college education,” Flores said in a statement to VOXXI. “Hispanics would particularly benefit from such initiative as a majority of those in college attend community colleges.”

Like Flores, Santiago also said many Latino students would benefit from this new opportunity. But she also said students need to keep in mind that other costs of going to college—like housing, transportation and books—wouldn’t be covered by this new proposal.

“I do want to make sure that students understand that sometimes the cost of going to college aren’t just tuition and fees,” she said. “Often, those bigger costs are everything else.”

SEE ALSO: Student loan debt weighing down young Latinos

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