A proposal to consider

Community colleges are a key to the educational self-improvement of Latinos. President Obama’s proposal of making them free will help provide more college and job opportunities for Hispanic youth.

Obama’s idea, unveiled Friday, recognizes the changes and demands of the job market, where a high school diploma is insufficient. The current job market demands more education, so it makes sense to extend free education for two more years.

The proposal has, in principle, bipartisan support. Several Republican legislators concur with the President but do not agree that the federal government should bear the cost of $60 billion over 10 years. Those senators and congressmen oppose a new federal program, claiming that the state governments should be responsible.

It is true that community colleges are run at the state level – this is the cause of their uneven cost and quality. In some states they are too costly for the kinds of students that need them – working Latinos and African Americans with limited knowledge and bigger family responsibilities. If the lack of Obamacare implementation – regardless if it means leaving people uninsured – is an indication, many states will not consider giving more attention and funds to the educational training of minorities and the poor.

This is why we need a federal program that, in addition of providing two thirds of the money needed for this free education, will demand improvements so these colleges will increase graduation rates, make credits transferable to four-year colleges, and ensure that students are learning useful skills for their future.

Although this plan still lacks many details, it stems from a reasonable principle. Congress has the opportunity to act with the new Higher Education Act, so the focus needs to be put on the preparation of students instead of federalist theories, much less protecting for-profit colleges that take money out of the students’ pockets without giving much in return