By Caitlin Soard
President Obama hosted a town hall at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis last Friday that focused around a new plan to help students get their educations at a lower price.
Sophomore Hannah Tanksley said the President’s plan shorts students who have already paid out money for school. “Students attending four year colleges are already paying more money due to financial aid, and now there’s an even further gap,” she said.
Obama’s plan is to make two years of community college free for students who maintain a 2.5 GPA. “There’s no such thing as a completely free lunch. We want to reward people who are making an effort,” he said.
The plan doesn’t just aim to make college more cost effective. The President wants to increase graduation rates and work with companies to help students find apprenticeships and jobs after completing their degrees.
“We’re not just working to make community colleges free, we’re working to make our community colleges more effective,” Obama said.
Junior Conner McNeely said a college education is becoming as necessary as a high school diploma, and the President’s plan to help students get that education is a good one.
“Making college affordable for everyone is a necessity, and making community college free for those that are serious and willing to work hard is the first step in the direction we need to be headed as a nation,” McNeely said.
The plan for free community college would be for every student with a GPA at or above 2.5, not just students needing financial aid.
When asked if this would make the value of an associate’s degree go down, the President said, “Absolutely not…Don’t think paying more is better. Paying less is better.”
Students planning on getting an associates degree will be able to do so for free and can continue on to get a bachelor’s degree if they choose to do so. Obama said a student without a lot of financial resources could get some of their schooling done for free, and then go on to a university such as Notre Dame or Indiana University if they choose.
Ivy Tech is planning on making it even easier for students to get more credits by implementing more programs that allow high school students to earn some college credit before they graduate, cutting down on the amount of time they would need to spend at a community college.
Obama said that this program wasn’t the only thing that needed to change in order to help students succeed in higher education: State legislators would need to be aware of rising college costs when allocating money to state institutions. The President said a big reason why college tuition has raised so much is to cover inflation that state funding did not.
Schools also need to be more upfront with students about what college actually costs, Obama said.
The new program, according to the President, will not affect the 529 accounts that are currently being used to save for future college student’s tuition.
Obama said another goal with the program is to work with community colleges to help veterans who may already have some skills get their degrees quicker and more efficiently, rather than retaking classes in things they already learned how to do while they were serving.
The President ended the town hall by saying his priorities for his last two years in office were, “to make sure that the American people’s income and wages are going up,” since the stock market and businesses have been doing well.