Guam educators on Obama's America's College Promise - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam educators on Obama's America's College Promise

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 by Isa Baza

Guam - Could students in Guam receive their first two years of college education free of charge?

President Barack Obama has released his America's College Promise proposal, which would make the first two years of community college free for responsible students. The program would provide free tuition to high school students with a GPA of 2.5 and above, so that an associate's degree, or the first two years of a four year degree, could be achieved debt-free.

Guam Community College communications director Jayne Flores said, "I think one of the most important things about the proposal is that it has put a focus on the cost, the rising cost of higher education. Flores says most people can't afford college even though its needed to be successful in the workforce. In fact, the typical college graduate from a public university is weighed down with an average of $30,000 in debt. Obama's proposal would save students an estimated $3,500 per year in tuition. "It is obviously a great proposal for people who need to afford college and for us it would be wonderful, except for the funding part, we need to know it's going to be funded," Flores continued.

According to the president's proposal the program would be a voluntary partnership between states and federal government, with the federal government covering three-fourths of the program's implementation, and state governments covering the remaining quarter. Flores notes that details of the plan have yet to be released, and as of now it is unclear whether the territories would even be included.

Committee on Education chairperson Senator Nerissa Underwood told KUAM News, "Now what we want to make sure is that Guam is actually included once this is introduced."

Federal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act left the territories behind, and so Senator Underwood hopes that Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo will work with the 114th Congress to ensure our island's interests are heard. Despite the cost of the program, Senator Underwood focuses on the programs benefit to students. She said, "They will acknowledge that skills and training to be gainfully employed to be contributing taxpayers, that would be worth the investment."

With other countries such as Germany providing free education, the US needs major education reforms to remain competitive. Congresswoman Bordallo's office confirmed that the president has not yet released the full details of the plan, and that it first needs to be approved by Congress. She also said that if approved, the program would be locally implemented through collaboration between the Legislature, the Governor's Office, and federal government.

It's also interesting to note that many years ago President Obama actually increased the funding for Pell Grants, and that increase allows 60% of GCC students go to school tuition-free.
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