Partner Statements on President Obama’s Free Community College Proposal

Today, January 9th, President Obama announced a proposal offering free community college to students who maintain a 2.5 gpa. This proposal would help over 9 million students at a savings of 3,800 per year. See the President’s video statement here.


AFT’s Weingarten on President Obama’s Free Tuition Announcement

WASHINGTON—In her statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten embraces President Obama’s proposal to offer free tuition to hardworking students attending our nation’s invaluable community colleges:

“Students deserve a high-quality, affordable and accessible higher education. And our 21st-century economy needs an educated workforce prepared to compete. Providing free community college for hardworking students could expand educational opportunity, strengthen our workforce and boost investment in community colleges, which have been hard hit by austerity budgets at the state level.
“With decades of stagnant wages and rising student debt, young people and returning adult students alike are either deterred from going to college or, when they do choose to attend, are buried under debt. That’s why extending the ladder of opportunity to those who may have thought college was out of reach is so important. We applaud the president’s proposal and hope that Congress, state governments and higher education institutions will work together to make this program a reality.
“In fact, we already see how programs like the one the president proposes are working. For instance, at the City University of New York, where faculty and staff are members of the AFT, the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs waive tuition and provide targeted supports that lead to better outcomes for students. We are delighted to see our members’ work recognized, and we urge legislators to sustain and expand on programs like it across the country.”


 STATEMENT: CAP, Generation Progress Applaud President’s Proposal to Make First Two Years of Community College Free

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Barack Obama proposed to make the two years of community college free for student.  The proposal would benefit 9 million students each year and save students an average of $3,800 in tuition.

David Bergeron, Vice President of Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:

“The president’s proposal to make the first two years of college free at our nation’s community colleges is an important step forward. It builds on the great success of the Tennessee Promise and begins the process of restoring public support for our most critical of public colleges: community colleges. As noted in CAP’s report, “A Great Recession; A Great Retreat,” community colleges bore the brunt of the spending cuts in public support while they continued to provide much-needed access to the kinds of education and training that are necessary to grow our nation’s economy and strengthen the middle class. We are pleased that President Obama responded quickly to address this problem.”

Today, Generation Progress also released a series of 50 state fact sheets, ranking and analyzing state disinvestment in public colleges and universities. Anne Johnson, Executive Director of Generation Progress, released the following statement:

“We applaud the president’s proposal to make two years of community college free for students who work for it. Higher education should be a public good. To build a stronger economy, we need young people to have access to the education they need and deserve without financial hardship or lifelong debt. In a time when states are investing less in higher education, the president’s proposal will help our generation gain skills and move our economy forward.”

Related resources:

Consumers Union

Consumers Union hails President’s free community college proposal to make education more affordable, accessible

WASHINGTON —  President Obama today is announcing a proposal to make community college tuition-free for two years for many U.S. students, under a program that could benefit 9 million students annually.  A full-time community college student would save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year if the proposal is implemented.  The President is announcing the program in Tennessee, which is launching a free community college program for students this year.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, hailed the President’s proposal as an important and ambitious initiative to make education more affordable and accessible.

Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney for Consumers Union, said, “This type of program has several clear benefits. It reduces the need for student loans, and it makes community college more attractive than an expensive for-profit college program.  The path to creating this program may be long and challenging, but we think there’s great potential for this idea at the federal and state level.”

Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “College tuition costs have put quality education out of reach for many Americans, and student loan debt is a crushing burden for too many individuals and families.  This proposal would go a long way toward making a college education a reality for millions who need it.”

Higher Ed, Not Debt

Higher Ed, Not Debt Applauds the President’s announcement to expand access to higher education by making the first two years of community college tuition free for every American.

Today President Obama announced a proposal that would make the two years of community college tuition free for students who work for it.  Maggie Thompson, Campaign Manager of Higher Ed, Not Debt released the following statement:

“The President’s proposal is an important step forward in expanding access to higher education for every American without the burden of debt or financial hardship.  Incentivizing states to reinvest in community colleges and expanding federal investment in students is critical to address America’s mounting student debt crisis.”


MoveOn Commends President Obama for Free Community College Proposal

In advance of his upcoming State of the Union address, President Obama is set to unveil a plan today at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee that would make two years of community college free for students. The proposal could benefit roughly 9 million students each year and save full-time community college students $3,800 in tuition per year on average.

Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, praised President Obama today for the proposal:

“President Obama’s plan to make two years of community college available to any hardworking American can help create a more globally competitive workforce and address our nation’s student debt crisis by creating more affordable options.

This is a big deal. Not only is this exactly the kind of bold action we need to expand opportunity and build a fairer economy—it has bipartisan support. It’s crucial that members of Congress work together with the White House on this proposal so millions of Americans can afford to learn new skills, continue their education, or gain the knowledge they need to pursue a new career. Just as we appreciate Senator Elizabeth Warren’s leadership in addressing the massive student debt crisis facing existing borrowers, we are encouraged by and support the President’s focus on ensuring current and future students can achieve an affordable degree.”

The community college proposal builds on President Obama’s record of addressing higher education issues, including a recent expansion of programs that allow student loan borrowers to benefit from lower interest rates.


NEA on the Administration’s Community Colleges Proposal – NEA’s Lily Eskelsen García: Education has always been the gateway to success

President Obama today will propose to offer 2 years of tuition-free education for hardworking students. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García reiterated NEA’s commitment to provide an affordable college education to all students:

“We applaud the Administration’s effort to make college more affordable for more students. Education has always been the gateway to success and far too many students are graduating with mountains of debt. At a time when post-secondary education has become even more important, students and their families are scrambling to pay for that education.

“The devil is always in the details but the President is right to continue pushing to make the dream of a college education more attainable for more students and families. And we can’t forget to invest in faculty and staff to ensure our students are receiving the quality education they deserve.

“We hope that Congress can work together with the Administration to make this a successful, sustainable program, as access to an affordable, quality post-secondary education for all students who want it is crucial to our success as a nation.”




As the national student loan debt exceeds $1.2 trillion, The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), applauds the President’s commitment to making college affordable. NYPIRG urges the state’s Congressional delegation to closely examine the President’s plan to offer free tuition for ‘responsible’ community college students. Given how expensive New York’s community colleges are, the President’s plan could offer real financial advantages to students as well as the state. New York’s Congressional delegation should carefully evaluate the President’s plan.

The outline of the President’s plan states that:

– Students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program.

– Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that are either 1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates.

– Community colleges will also be expected adopt proven programs–such as the City University of New York’s (CUNY) successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program–which provides expanded counseling and additional financial support to pay for textbooks and travel.

– Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. Participating states will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate the tuition for eligible students.

One Wisconsin Now

One Wisconsin Now Enthusiastically Supports President Obama’s Proposal for Free Community College Tuition

‘We Must Return to Degrees, Not Decades of Debt in Higher Education,’ Says One WI Now

MADISON, WI — One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements on President Obama’s new plan to provide free technical college tuition to hardworking students.

“Im my lifetime, technical college was free in Wisconsin and now our research shows a two-year degree saddles the average hardworking student with over 16 years of student loan debt. President Obama’s community college plan reiterates the nation’s character: that public education is a public good that the public supports. Higher education and job training must remain the ticket to success for working families and young people across the country and not a pathway to multiple decades of student loan debt.

“Elected officials like U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker have failed to act in the interests of Wisconsin’s nearly one million student loan borrowers on plans to allow borrowers to refinance their loans, just like you can a mortgage. Johnson, Walker and their Republican colleagues ignore the needs of student loan borrowers, despite conclusive research the $1.2 trillion student loan crisis is crippling our economic might as a nation. The President recognizes the economic power and electoral might of one million student loan borrowers in Wisconsin and 40 million across the country who aren’t looking for a bailout, but are looking for their chance at the American Dream.”

One Wisconsin Institute’s nationwide student loan research on amount, length and impact on homeownership and new auto purchasing habits of student loan borrowers.

One Wisconsin Institute’s Wisconsin-based student loan research


PHENOM supports President Obama’s call for accessible, free community college.

PHENOM (the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts) applauds President Obama’s proposal for free community college, which recognizes that college has become as necessary a building block to a successful career and life as high school was a century ago.  “We are thrilled that President Obama is proposing this dramatic investment in access to public higher education,”  said Natalie Higgins, PHENOM’s Executive Director.  “This is a watershed moment in higher education policy, making the idea of a college education for all citizens a right.”

“PHENOM’s guiding principles are centered around securing sufficient funding for public higher education in Massachusetts to guarantee affordable, accessible, and high-quality public higher education for all students,”said Max Page, Professor of Architecture at UMass Amherst and a PHENOM Board member. “PHENOM has long supported the idea of free higher education, including two free years.”  As a step in that direction, PHENOM has developed the Finish Line Grant which would provide low-income students with one free year at a Massachusetts public college or university after they have completed at least one year successfully.  Democrat Sean Garballey (Arlington) and Republican Bruce Tarr (Gloucester) are both filing the bill, attesting to the bipartisan importance of this issue.

We must rally behind President Obama’s proposal. Massachusetts should be a leader in public higher education, yet we currently rank 46th nationally in the average need based grant award per student. The value of the MASSGrant has decreased dramatically in the last two decades,  once covering 80% of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts in 1988, but only 9% in 2013. Moreover, decreased state support has forced community colleges to rely on more part-time faculty, and currently less than ⅓ of all courses taught at Massachusetts community colleges are taught by full-time faculty. We must focus on access, affordability, and quality of public higher education. Just yesterday PHENOM wrote an Open Letter to Governor Baker about investment in public higher education. We must all work together to ensure a college education becomes a public good and a right, not a privilege for a select few.

Student Debt Crisis

Student Debt Crisis supports the President’s proposal to provide free community college, but warns of the continued economic consequences of overlooking existing student loan borrowers.

Student Debt Crisis is pleased by the recent announcement by President Barack Obama stating that, “Community College should be free to anyone who is willing to work for it…” This new proposal, which offers free community college for all, would help over 9 million new students and save over $3,800 per year, per student.

“As a former community college student myself, it would have saved me time and money to have my first two years at community college paid. I am beyond thrilled that our President is proposing this option for future students. However, as a borrower with student loan debt, I am still awaiting the proposal that will help existing borrowers like me.” – Natalia Abrams, Executive Director Student Debt Crisis

While this is an impactful proposal for prospective students, we at Student Debt Crisis continue to urge the administration, and Congress, to seek out methods that help the over 40 million existing student loan borrowers. Our members are truly excited about the President starting the discussion around free higher education. However, they continue to remind us that this “does not help those already so far in debt… we need to help those people first!”, stated Carla Hoffman-Sweet, former special education teacher and SDC supporter.

Fortunately, this proposal does help to alleviate larger debt burdens in the future, but we will continue to echo our supporters’ call to help all Americans who are negatively affected by the cost of college today. SDC’s hope is that this is only the beginning of our collective goal to make higher education a fundamental human right.

With this large step of offering free community college, our supporters’ desire is that President Obama’s new proposal opens up the notion that ALL higher education should be free. In addition we would like to see new proposals that help alleviate the over 1.3 trillion dollars in current student loan debt.

Young Invincibles

Young Invincibles Executive Director Jen Mishory released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposal to make community college more affordable:

“Higher education is key to realizing better job prospects and lifts the wages of young workers. Over the last decade, Millennials have seen college tuition and student debt soar to new heights. We applaud the President’s effort to make community college more affordable and help more young adults realize the dream of a college education.”


Connect With Us