President Barack Obama said Friday that his “America’s College Promise” plan would make a basic two-year college education or technical training free and universal for the first time in the United States.
“It shouldn’t matter what your last name is or what we look like or what family we were born into or how we worship," Obama said in a speech delivered at a community college in the state of Tennessee. "What matters is effort and merit. That’s the promise of America. And the way we deliver on that is making sure that our education system works on behalf of every person who lives here.”
The plan calls for the government to pay for people to study at community colleges. The institutions grant two-year degrees and are inexpensive alternatives for those who do not have the money or the academic qualifications for much more expensive four-year universities.
Community college fees, which average about $3,000 a year, are too much for many Americans, including young students from low-income families or older people who want continuing education or need additional skills.
“Every American, whether they’re young, or just young at heart, should be able to earn the skills and education necessary to compete and win in the 21st-century economy," he said. "So today, I’m announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America. I want to bring it down to zero.”
White House officials said the program was expected to cost the U.S. government $60 billion over 10 years — a price tag that could put the president on a collision course with the new, Republican-dominated Congress, whose members have campaigned on a drive to cut federal spending.
Obama said he hoped the initiative would win bipartisan support, and it was not a coincidence that he made his announcement in Tennessee. The state already offers free community college education under a plan pushed by a governor who is a Republican. The president said he hoped other states would follow Tennessee's lead.