McInnis weighs in on president’s free college proposal

Federal government would cover 3/4 of cost

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Plenty of details have yet to be released, but President Barack Obama’s proposal to publicly fund community college for everyone seems to have local support.

Submitted photo Dr. Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College, said any program that increases the awareness and recognizes the worth of a community college education "is a good thing."

Submitted photo
Dr. Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College, said any program that increases the awareness and recognizes the worth of a community college education “is a good thing.”

Dr. Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College in Hamlet, noted that “there are a lot of unknowns, but anything that supports community college students, our communities and community colleges and recognizes their value and the role they play is a good thing.”

Obama announced Thursday, via a video posted to the White House’s Facebook account while leaving on Air Force One from Detroit, that “put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it.”

“It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world,” Obama said.

Obama said part of the goal is to ease the transfer from two-year schools to four-year institutions — something McInnis and other North Carolina community college officials have been working on for at least several months. In July, McInnis helped hammer out an modified and strengthened agreement managing transfer credits from RCC to North Carolina public universities to provide students a better opportunity to obtain a four-year degree at a more affordable rate.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, each North Carolina University is tasked with developing, publishing and maintaining plans that identify community college courses that will transfer from two-year institutions to four-year colleges for the seamless acquisition of a four-year degree.

“This is something that community colleges have struggled with for some time, and in the past it put students in a position where they would lose too many credits when they transferred,” McInnis said in December when the modified agreement became official.

Obama’s proposal includes traditional and nontraditional students, White House officials said. A student could save up to $3,800 in tuition each year. Students would be required to attend at last half-time, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and make progress towards a degree or certificate program.

The president of the state community college system also weighed in.

“Community colleges are the gateway to middle class opportunity for millions of Americans, and the intent of the president’s proposal appears consistent with our state’s longstanding commitment to affordable higher education,” said Dr. Scott Ralls.  “North Carolina’s community colleges are national leaders in promoting student access, affordable tuition and establishing clear higher education and career pathways — all key tenets of the president’s proposal.  We also know that getting students in the door is only the first step. Getting them across the graduation stage with a meaningful credential and into the workplace is the ultimate goal.”

That goal, Ralls said, comes at a big picture that is comprised of more than low tuition, “but also to quality instructors, well-equipped labs, classrooms and other resources that our state and national leaders will also have to weigh when considering the full equation.”

Details are expected to come Jan. 20, when Obama gives his annual State of the Union address. The initiative will likely be an uphill battle as the president faces a majority Republican House and Senate. White House officials said the funding proposal will come when he submits his budget request to Congress next month.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday a proposal to publicly fund community college for everyone.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday a proposal to publicly fund community college for everyone.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Filed in: Business, Education, Latest Headlines, News

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