United States President Barack Obama has proposed a plan for two free years of community college for all American workers. Obama’s goal is to make community college education as common and ubiquitous as a high school education. If the plan is adopted in all 50 states, and approved by Congress, it would benefit roughly 9 million students.

While there aren’t many details just yet, there is enough information to estimate a cost. Given the estimated number of 9 million students, and assuming that each would be saving $3,800 a year, we can estimate a price tag of roughly $70 billion for the plan. Since there is a lack of definitive information, Cory Fritz, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said “with no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan.”

If the plan were implemented, the benefits could be far reaching. “Universal high school unleashed decades of innovation and talent that fueled growth, both in manufacturing but also in knowledge sectors,” said Josh Wyner, director of the College Excellence program at the Aspen Institute. “So the notion that we’re extending universal education to the first two years of college is really kind of a moonshot idea. We know high school isn’t enough anymore.”

Here are some other considerations about this potential plan.

  • This plan wouldn’t pay for every part of a student’s education, just their tuition costs. However, even just covering the cost of tuition will likely help more students graduate from community college than ever before. Currently, only about 20 percent of students seeking a 2-year degree at community college actually graduate. This is likely because students must divide their time between school and work, while working sufficient hours to support themselves. However, paying for students’ tuition decreases the amount of hours they must work to maintain their lifestyles, and as a result graduation rates would most likely increase.
  • Free tuition for community college can help students afford the next few years of college. This can provide students with two more years of time to save money, potentially inspiring more students to continue their education and attend 4-year schools after completing community college.
  • Community colleges could also use the help. A large increase in the number of community college students would both funnel more funding to these schools as well as requiring more professors and faculty. This would create new jobs for professors and other faculty at these schools, in turn helping the economy.

We have written before about the pros and cons of studying at a community college. With Obama’s plan, the benefit that community college has of being much cheaper than 4-year schools would be even more beneficial because students wouldn’t even have to pay for tuition.

More details on this program will allegedly come in the State of the Union Address on January 20th. We will also learn more about the budget, as the President must submit a budget on February 2nd.

What do you think about Obama’s plan to provide free community college to all US citizens? Would you attend community college if it were free?