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Obama community college plan could affect enrollment

Administrators stressed the importance of lowering student debt.

On Jan. 8, President Barack Obama announced via a Facebook video that he wanted “the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it.” While the details of the plan are still forthcoming, the proposal could cause more community college students to decide to transfer into Temple.

“Less than half of the transfer students come from community colleges,” said Michele O’Connor, associate vice provost for undergraduate admissions. “It could increase enrollment if [transfer students] don’t have any debt.”

By assisting students to complete an undergraduate degree, Obama’s initiative aims to reduce imbalances in education status across varying socioeconomic levels. With this plan, students who maintain a 2.5 grade-point average can expect to receive the benefits of a reduced-cost education.

The White House said that the initiative has the potential to help up to 9 million students complete an undergraduate degree and graduate with reduced debt. The plan has an estimated cost of $60 billion over the span of 10 years.

David Glezerman, assistant vice president and bursar, said he thinks it’s important to make college accessible to more people.

“It opens opportunities not just for young people, but for adults who are going to be retrained for new types of jobs,” Glezerman said. “The fact that community college tuition would be free potentially reduces student debt levels for any Temple student who transfers in from a community college.”

As of July 2012, Temple has entered into Dual/Guaranteed Admissions, Core-to-Core or GenEd-to-GenEd transfer agreements with 16 area community colleges including the Community College of Philadelphia, Bucks County Community College and Montgomery County Community College.

According to the Office of the Provost’s website, these agreements “provide accurate curricular information for prospective transfer students and their academic advisors by aligning associate degree requirements with baccalaureate requirements.”

“Community college transfers are an important part of Temple’s transfer enrollments, and we will closely monitor developments in Obama’s proposal,” William Black, senior vice provost of enrollment management, said in a statement. “We will also continue to work with our community college partners to promote access to excellent, affordable higher education and on-time graduation.”

Critics of Obama’s plan say there is still not enough information about how the program will be implemented to be fully supportive. Critics also say that addressing structural problems and current graduation rates within the education system should take priority before a potentially large influx of new students enter community colleges.

O’Connor said community college transfer students would still have access to “Fly in 4,” Temple’s program to help students graduate in four years.

The financial aid process would also not be any different than from before, Glezerman said.

“If it meant more students, then there are some potential issues about what funding would be available,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there’s going to be less funding, but it just means that students have to take the necessary steps.”

O’Connor said she doesn’t foresee a major influx of community college transfers. Glezerman said he agrees, at least in the short-term.

“Likely from the time that it starts, we may not see any of the students from the community colleges for at least a year, if not longer,” he said. “So I think the implications directly for Temple, we may not begin to see those benefits two to three years out.”

The president’s proposal is preceded by two recent programs. One is the Tennessee Promise, a scholarship which will provide students in Tennessee with two years of tuition-free education at a Tennessee community college or technical school.

The other is the Chicago Star Scholarship, which will provide college tuition, fees and books for one of the City Colleges of Chicago’s “pathway programs” to Chicago Public School graduates who achieved a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Further development of the community college plan is forthcoming, as it may encounter resistance from the public and from partisan leadership in the Senate, the Washington Post reported.

Lian Parsons can be reached lian.parsons@temple.edu on Twitter @Lian_Parsons

Lian Parsons

can be reached at lian.parsons@temple.edu
Or you can follow Lian on Twitter @Lian_Parsons
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