Last night President Obama announced a plan to partner with states to make two years of free community college available to all Americans. The proposal, introduced with a YouTube video from the president and a press release factsheet, will be the focus of a presidential speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee later today.
I’ve written a number of times before about why I support free public higher education — about why it’s a worthy concept in general and about the potential of Tennessee’s implementation of it on the community college level. Hell, I’ve even written a manifesto on the subject, complete with tee shirt.
Obama’s proposal is not the one that I would have put forward. There are a lot of details yet to be fleshed out, and some real reasons for concern about the plan as described. As a prod for a new national discussion, however, and as a starting point for organizing, I welcome it wholeheartedly.
I’ll be watching and reporting on Obama’s speech when it happens in a few hours, and writing more about my thoughts then and later. First, though, a roundup of others’ initial reactions:
- American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says the AFT, a union of K-12 and college educators, is “delighted” with the initiative.
- History professor David Perry likes the plan, and calls for a push to incorporate mandates for full-time faculty hiring into the program’s college credentialing process.
- The New York Times notes that Tennessee’s governor and both of its senators — all Republicans — will be at today’s speech.
- Politico adds that he’ll be joined by Vice President Biden, as well as Jill Biden — herself a community college professor.
- Matt Reed, a community college dean who has a regular column in Inside Higher Ed, is concerned about sustained funding for such a project, and doubts it’ll get through Congress before the next presidential election.
- The Institute for College Access and Success released a stinging attack on the plan last night, which it has partially walked back as more details have become public. TICAS remains, however, opposed to free tuition plans that aren’t targeted through means testing.
- Forbes columnist Andrew Kelly worries about costs, standards, and undercutting for-profit colleges.
- On that last subject, at this writing (10:15 am ET) for-profit education stocks are down an average of about 1.5% from yesterday’s close.
That’s just a start. I’ll have a lot more in a bit.