Tag Archives: white house

President Obama Proposes Free Community College

The key phrase here is, “…for those who work for it.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades’ worth of student debt.

Currently, in Texas, 1/3 of university students and 1/2 of community college students are deemed unprepared for college once they graduate from high school. If community college students work hard, earn a 2.5 GPA, attend at least half-time, students could save a whole bunch, while preparing themselves for university-level courses.

Is there a catch? According to the White House:

The requirements:

  • What students have to do: Students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program.
  • What community colleges have to do: 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 must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.
  • What the federal government has to do: 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.

So, there are a couple of catches. The first one is that the participating colleges need to adopt institutional reforms to improve student outcomes. That said, and in a state like Texas, the colleges would need to put in some effort to help prepare students before they get into their transferable courses–tutoring programs, convenient course time availability for working students, proactive academic advising, etc. At least, that’s my thinking. It seems politicians of either party are so far off the mark when putting the onus on colleges to get students college-ready, and do little to fund K-12, which is where these students should be getting college-ready. There are some screwed-up priorities when it comes to education in Texas.

The second catch is that the Feds pay for 3/4 and the states pay the remaining funds to eliminate tuition. How that works in Texas, whose community colleges are locally controlled by elected boards, is still to be seen. Perhaps it’s through state financial aid. Still, states much choose to participate and with Texas ever-slipping backwards, and as some of my college professor friends have said, “I won’t hold my breath.”

Tech and Workforce Programs

Obviously, a good chunk of this would go to folks wanting to earn career certificates in tech and workforce programs. Many of these programs exist according to community needs, so, there will be a substantial benefit and return on the investment if students immediately fill jobs and become contributing members of the economy. Still, the state must choose to participate.

Something to consider is that many of these programs are too small–not enough seats and plenty of competition to enter the programs. Here in Texas, there is a huge nursing shortage. Back in 2005, my friend and former Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra wrote about the nursing shortage.

“Texas needs 34,000 more registered nurses to catch up to the national average…”

And that was in 2005. Some progress has been made, but if there is lack of support to grow these programs, by 2020 the shortage could number 70,000.

Obviously, there is much to think about. Certainly demand for all kinds of programs would increase with this kind of opportunity, but without available seats and investment from community college districts and other state funding beyond the tuition break, meeting employment needs would continue to be a challenge.

All of this said, anything that gives the next generation a break from tuition costs and student loans would be welcome.

 

 

Executive Action Will Be Announced Thursday; What Should We Expect?

president_signingWell, everyone seems to be guessing, but the overall prediction is that President Obama will act to defer deportations for a few million undocumented folks and he will announce his plan on Thursday. Which undocumented folks from the 11 million, you ask? There’s nothing official, but most outlets are stating the following:

Administration officials say a key part of the announcement will be allowing the parents of American citizens, who are undocumented immigrants themselves, to remain in the United States without the threat of deportation. That would include the parents of legal residents, but not the parents of children eligible for delayed deportation under a rule Obama enacted in 2012.

Up to 3.6 million people would be affected by that change, according to an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute, though the figures are smaller if Obama’s announcement includes a minimum number of years spent in the country.

Mandating parents live in the U.S. for at least 5 years before becoming eligible would bring the number affected to 3.3 million; a 10-year minimum would bring it down further to an estimated 2.5 million people.

In other words, in this scenario, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would not be offered to the parents of DACA beneficiaries. On the other hand, undocumented parents of legal residents  will be offered deferred deportation. I figure this much has been said in order to lower expectations, although, this blogger has supported including parents of DACA beneficiaries as a means of keeping families united. Over 500,000 have benefited from DACA since 2012.

In regards to DACA, though, it could be the case that President Obama will increase the age cut-off to offer more deferrals under that program.

Officials also said the plan could include a stronger focus on deporting criminals who are undocumented immigrants and an expansion of worker visas in areas like technology.

Obviously, the tech work visas will make Silicon Valley happy, but putting the focus on the original intent of deportation programs, such as Secure Communities, is long overdue. It is said that a huge portion–some say over half–of the Obama administration’s deportations in the last six years have been of people who did not have a criminal record. President Obama recently stated that the United States has been deporting people who shouldn’t be deported.

It should be noted that whatever is announced will not affect a person’s immigration status. It is by no means “amnesty,” since beneficiaries will not have the vast majority of rights as legal residents or citizens.

Obviously, we will not know until the announcement is made. I’ve kept my  expectations low.  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has stated as much that this announcement will include “border security” efforts.

Above all, the legislative battles will continue; the Republican vitriol will surely increase; and there will surely be some confusion along the way. The best source will ultimately be the White House and Jeh Johnson’s people, since the media will likely be less of an informational source for those who need the information. Or, they could try to prove me wrong.

We still need a permanent solution that includes those basic tenets as family unification, deportation reform, and end to family detention, and a fix to the “legal” immigration system.

The President announces on Thursday, November 20, at 7PM.