Obama's Free College Tuition Proposal

January 24, 2015

A short activity has students consider President Obama's proposal for free community college.  

In his State of the Union Address on January 20, President Obama proposed what he calls "America’s College Promise."  It would provide free tuition for students to attend two years of community college. If Congress passed the bill, and if all states participated, an estimated 9 million students would benefit each year. According to the White House, a full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.  (The average debt for graduating seniors with student loans was $29,400 in 2012.)

Project on Student Debt: 


Question 1: Do you support free college tuition?  Does President Obama’s proposal go far enough? Too far? How?

Question 2: Discuss as a group or in pairs: Are you yourself concerned about the high cost of tuition?  Does the high cost of college affect your own plans for college or career?

Question 3: This program would reportedly cost taxpayers $6 billion a year. Is it worth it?

There is evidence that providing financial support for people to get a college degree is a great investment. The World War 2-era "GI bill" provided returning vets with full tuition support adding up to over $19,000 per person in today’s dollars.  A congressional study of this expensive program found that it was one of the best investments the U.S. ever made:  Each dollar spent produced a $6.90 return in national output.  And although African American veterans faced many obstacles in getting access to their GI bill benefits, it was still "one of the best pieces of legislation ever passed that has helped young black males," says Dr. William Hytche, former president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

US government: