UH on board with Obama’s community college plan

Local News

President Barack Obama says his new proposal to make the first two years of community college free will lead to better jobs, better wages and better benefits.

“America’s College Promise” would be a matching grant program that makes the federal government responsible for 75 percent of the average cost of community college.

Students’ tuition and fees would be covered upfront and participating states would be required to cover the remaining tuition balance.

The proposal would create partnerships with states to waive tuition for students.

University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says the university and its affiliated community colleges are on board with the proposal.

“Affordable, accessible education is the top priority for University of Hawaii,” says Meisenzahl. “We think it’s great. We look forward to seeing how it plays out in the future.”

In Hawaii, the average tuition rate is about $2,700 per year.

Meisenzahl says free tuition for the first two years would be an attractive option for Hawaii community college students who choose to move on to UH for a four-year degree.

Roosevelt High School senior Mami Ogiwora is currently filling out college applications for four-year institutions, but says she’d consider community college if Obama’s proposal goes through.

“I did not hear about that, but that sounds quite amazing. I definitely would look into it,” she said.

Current college student Moises Perez says he and his friends juggle school with one or two jobs and is in favor of “free community college.”

“School is really expensive,” Perez said. “That would really help out, especially with people who can’t afford education but really want to improve their lives.”

“Of course the devil’s in the details. Anything we can do to keep cost of college reasonable for students is a top priority,” said Meisenzahl.

If “America’s College Promise” goes through and Hawaii participates, it is up to the state to come up with 25 percent of the funding for free community college.

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