“What I’d like to do is to see is the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” he said Thursday in what he called a “sneak peek” at his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.
In the video, Obama outlines the reason for his proposal, inspired by a similar program, “The Tennessee Promise”:
I think everybody understands [education] is the key to success for our kids in the 21st century. But what we also understand is that it’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.
A shorter version of the announcement was shared on Twitter and Vine:
If Congress agrees to the president’s proposal, federal funding would cover three-fourths of community college expenses. States would be asked to cover the remaining cost.
The National Student Clearinghouse reported in December 2014 that an estimated 6.1 million students were enrolled in public community colleges, which is about 3.5 percent fewer than 2013’s enrollment numbers. The Washington Post says administration officials hope to reverse this downward trend.
White House representatives said about 9 million students could participate in the plan, each saving an average $ 3,800 in education expenses each year. The estimates place the plan’s cost in the “tens of billions of dollars,” according to The Boston Globe.
The proposal posts are making the rounds online: Obama’s Facebook video received more than 6.6 million views within 21 hours, with the shorter Vine garnering more than 34,700 shares on Twitter and more than 76,000 shares on Facebook.
The buzz online may be growing, but not everyone supports Obama’s proposal. The Institute for College Access and Success says the plan is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” in that it ignores living expenses, transportation and textbook costs, according to Politico.
Former Association of Community College Trustees policy analyst Bryce McKibben says the proposal could do more for less needy students, as the low-income applicants who need the most help may already be covered by federal aid such as Pell grants.
Obama is no stranger to social media, nor to his millennial audience: He made history in 2008 as the first presidential candidate to effectively use social media in his campaign strategy, and in October 2014 even used emojis to explain the U.S. economy.
But giving citizens a preview of an official address across social media channels is definitely novel.
As one Engadget writer says, “it’s not often that you get a peek at the State of the Union while you’re catching up on friends’ status updates and looping cat videos.”
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