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Locals react to Obama’s plan for tuition-free community college

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Posted at 9:53 PM, Jan 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-10 00:12:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- College should be free to everyone who wants to attend. That was the message delivered by President Barack Obama this week.

The President is proposing a plan that would make community college tuition-free for the first two years. The program is called America’s College Promise and it would be available to all responsible students.

Salt Lake Community College student, Angela Golish, said the program could have really helped her in the past, and it could help again right now. She is embarking on her second try at college, after her first stint at Weber State ended in disappointment in 2004.

“I was making minimum wage and working 60 hours a week and eventually dropped out because I couldn’t afford it,” said Golish.

Golish is an example of the 9 million potential students nationwide that could be benefiting from the America’s College Promise. Two years of free tuition at SLCC would save her upwards of $6,000.

“It would have been so much better because if I could have just worked a part time job, a little less stress, if I wasn’t paying for school, I wasn’t racking up all this debt,” said Golish.

According to the Obama Administration, to be eligible students must attend at least half-time, maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average and make steady progress.

Ben Horsley, of the Granite School District, said this plan would give many high school students renewed optimism.

“I think we need to take into perspective a low income family and how they really view their perspective on college and a lot of them view it as out of scope and out of site,” Horsley said.

Golish said her life would be drastically different if she had her college degree.

“I missed out on opportunities for advancement in my company due to not having a degree, I got passed up for a promotion for someone else who had a college degree,” said Golish.

However, Governor Gary Herbert’s Office wants to know who’s paying for it and how? The White House estimates the program will cost about $60 billion dollars over 10 years.

The Federal Government would cover 75 percent while the state would pick up the remaining quarter.

“The Governor is very cautious when it comes to committing tax payer dollars to something like that particularly when there are a lot of people who already attend community college for two years and pay for it and find a way to do so,” said Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Gov. Herbert.

The Utah System of Higher Education is all in favor of increasing college enrollment, but they admit it also provides a challenge.

“There are also costs in having enough people to teach them, and also to have the facilities, and the infrastructure and I include IT,” said Dave Buhler, Commissioner of Higher Education.

The President’s plan is still in the very early stages. In order to go into effect the Republican-controlled Congress would have to approve it. Even if Congress approves it, the Utah Lawmakers would also get an opportunity to vote on whether or not it’s the right program for the state.