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Obama Addresses Free College Education in State of the Union Speech

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young woman standing in front of a blackboardBy Marty McKee
Editor, In Military Education

President Obama spoke the words “education” or “educational” four times during last night’s State of the Union address. If that number seems a little low, know that it came attached to a big proposal.

Among the many items on his agenda that the president spoke about was America’s College Promise – a proposal that would allow students to attend community college free for two years, saving up to $7,600 in the process.

Not all students would qualify – as President Obama stated, “Understand, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.” Students would have to attend at least half-time, enroll in classes that would count toward a degree or certificate, and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5.

America’s College Promise doesn’t come completely out of the blue. Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, signed into law last year Tennessee Promise, which provides Tennessee students with two years of free community college or technical college. In Chicago, Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Star Scholarship provides tuition, fee and book waivers to qualifying high school graduates who want to earn associate degrees.

America’s College Promise would likely cost at least $60 billion over the next 10 years. To pay for it, the president plans to raise taxes on the rich, including a jump in the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8 percent to 28 percent. New tax credits for the middle class, including a subsidy of up to $2,500 annually to pay for college, would also be involved.

About the Author

Marty McKee joined the Marketing Administration department of American Military University in April 2014. Among his duties is editorship of the In Military Education blog.

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