New Haven Promise is a model for Obama’s community college proposal

President Barack Obama outlines his plan for free community college tuitions (Image: WhiteHouse.gov)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — President Obama made a surprise education announcement on the internet. He said he wants to make two year community college education free for students who keep their grades up.

“What I would like to do is see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” President Obama said in Facebook announcement taped on Air Force One. “That’s right, free for everyone who is willing to work for it..”

“Awesome,” was the reaction of New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton when she heard the news. “It’s a promise program at the community college level. And it’s not a new concept.”

Free college is definitely not a new concept to the students involved in the New Haven Promise program.

“They are funded to go to in-state public institutions for full tuition, and in-state private institutions they can get up to $10,000 scholarship tuition,” explained Melton.

Critics of the Obama plan say there is no way to fund it. The outline the White House put out only says it will be three quarters federal funding, one quarter state funding. New Haven promise is funded through the New Haven Community Foundation and other philanthropic grants. Other schools who are already doing this have found their own ways to fund it.

“For instance, in Indiana, they are funding their promise program through a tax on water” Melton said. “Cuesta College is funding its promise, Cuesta Promise through hotel tax.”

In his announcement on Facebook, President Obama says a better-educated workforce is good for America. That’s the idea behind New Haven Promise, too.

“In this economy and in our society, we really are competing on a global level,” Melton said. “So it’s no longer enough to have a high school diploma.”

We already supply the first 13 years of education for free, why not another two? Well, there are plenty of potential roadblocks – political, financial, and just space. We don’t have enough room in our community colleges for everyone to attend.

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