Obama’s two-year college plan a step in the right direction

by Alexandra Tollefson

tollefsoal@mnstate.edu

Whenever I go home to my mom, we sit for hours and just catch up. We don’t often get a chance to talk while I’m here at MSUM, so these are always nice bonding moments for us. Though, one subject that always seems to come up is finances.

How much money do we still have left to pay for schooling? Enough for next semester? The semester after that? What scholarships are available? What kind of income can we expect during the summer months when I’ll be able to work more?

It’s a lot to think about, especially when you pile on a job, five classes, a lab, extracurriculars, a social life, a private life, and (hopefully) time to eat and sleep.

With money almost constantly on my mind, President Obama’s proposal for free two-year college tuition really intrigued me. Of course, there’s an argument for both sides, but I truly believe this is a start in the right direction when it comes to higher education, and education in general, in the United States.

Here’s the gist of Obama’s proposal: students who maintain  at least a 2.5 GPA and who are working toward a degree at a two-year institution would have their tuition waived. The plan would cost about $60 billion over 10 years, according to CBS, with the federal government paying for three-fourths of it and states pitching in for the rest. This plan would ease the financial burden of as many as 9 million students, and make two-year colleges “as free and universal as high school is today.”

Some are dismissive of the idea, mostly because of the program’s cost. However, freshman Austin Hendershot, has different reservations. He’s more worried about four year institutions like our own.

“I’m worried that people will take full advantage of the plan and then just stop there,” he told me.

He furthered this argument by pointing out the repercussions for four-year schools. If more people opt for the free two-year college instead of paying full price for the four-year college, universities like MSUM may have to raise prices to cover the lack of cash inflow, making college even more financially stressful.

He makes a good point. It’s definitely something that would need to be considered, among other issues. But, as freshman Laramie Jackson put it, “I do not want to live in a nation full of idiots. I’m all for it.”

Although he may have lacked some tact in that statement, I can’t say I don’t agree with Laramie. America’s test scores haven’t been great in a long time, and we lack a skilled workforce to fill the job openings we’re creating.

Putting money into a field like education should never be a problem, and yet, the GOP seems to want to make it one. Education is one of the most important issues in politics. Unless we want to go back to being sheepherders and farmhands, we as a nation need a good education system. We need to be able to present our people affordable choices in higher education. If that raises some taxes, so be it. It’s an investment, not an expense. We spend more on our military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and India combined: $640 billion, or about 20 percent of the national budget as of 2013. If we just decreased that spending by one percent for the next 10 years, we’d have more than enough leg room in the national budget to cover this plan.

I don’t ever want someone to be unable to go to college because of their finances. I don’t want to live in a country that isn’t willing to give its people good, affordable education options. The President’s proposal is a solid step in the right direction when it comes to educational reform. It will relieve many families from financial burdens, as well as strengthen our workforce and boost our economy in the long run.

This plan may even lead us down the path of many European countries that already offer free tuition for university.

Think about how many people you know who couldn’t afford college, or who didn’t want to end up in a mountain of debt. Think of all the opportunities something like this could provide for us. It’s an exciting possibility, but one we may likely never see if half of our governing officials can’t even bear the thought of free two-year college. Still, I’m hopeful that America is getting on the right track in the field of education.

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