Free community college raises questions for state universities

Luis Martinez, Administration Editor

With President Barack Obama having indicated his goal for free community college tuition during his State of the Union address, universities like Eastern must wait for their states to react to come up with a plan.

The idea behind the proposal was to raise students’ interest in going to college and making the idea appear affordable.

Chris Dearth, the director of admissions, said a lot of details still must be worked out for Obama’s proposal.

“The devil’s in the details, as they say,” Dearth said. “From a state’s standpoint, each state is going to have to determine how they would pay for the free tuition for students.”

Dearth said the money has to come from somewhere.

“Community college tuition isn’t as high as some four-year institutions,” Dearth said. “If the state makes a commitment to pick up that cost, some of the money that goes to the four year public might get siphoned off to community colleges.”

Dearth said it will ultimately be up to the states to decide how to proceed.

If the state decides to support the proposal, then it would be up to legislators to decide how they would go about paying for the tuition.

“I think a lot of states are still in the investigative stage, trying to figure out what it would look like, where would the money come from and how much it would cost each state,” Dearth said.

The proposal is that the federal government would be paying roughly 75 percent of the tuition costs, and the states would have to make up the remaining 25 percent. “Even if it’s only 25 percent, that’s money that the state’s not currently paying,” Dearth said. “They would have to figure exactly where would they grab that money from.”

Dearth said each state will be different in terms of deciding where the extra funds will come from.

“A lot of them are expressing interest in supporting the community college,” Dearth said. “But I can’t say if that would come at the cost at the four year publics or if there would be another way for them to generate the money.”

Dearth said some states have lottery funds they are able to pull funds from in order to help cover costs for different things, but he has no idea where the funds to pay community college tuition would come from.

Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].