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Top Public Policy Issues: College Access and Affordability [Excerpt]

Top Public Policy Issues: College Access and Affordability [Excerpt]

College access and affordability is a topic that has been in the news lately due to President Obama's proposal to make two years of community college free. The below excerpt from AGB's forthcoming publication, Top Public Policy Issues for Higher Education in 2015-2016, offers more details about this program.

Next month, AGB will release Top Public Policy Issues for Higher Education in 2015 and 2016. This bi-annual publication aims to provide background for discussions among board members for what AGB believes will be the most prominent public policy issues for universities and colleges over the next two years.

Speaking at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee in January 2015, President Obama announced a new program that would make two years of community college free for those from families with annual incomes of less than $200,000.

Participating students would

  • have to attend community college at least half-time,
  • maintain a 2.5 GPA, and
  • make steady progress toward completing their program.

The backstory here includes an interesting political twist, in that the president's program is based on the "Tennessee Promise" that was proposed by Tennessee's Republican governor, Bill Haslam. Perhaps with that in mind, the White House asserted that its proposal could garner broad bipartisan support. But it is not clear whether the program, which some experts price at upwards of $60 billion, will ever gain the traction it needs to pass a Republican-controlled Congress. And for several reasons, the higher education community is far from united in support of the proposal, at least at this preliminary stage.

Regardless of its fate, the proposed plan—which some say is on a scale similar to the GI Bill or initiation of Pell Grants—is further evidence that the president intends to continue to be aggressive in shaping the policy debate around higher education.

For more information on college costs and keeping college affordable, download "Tuition and Financial Aid: Nine Points for Board to Consider in Keeping College Affordable."

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