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New Obama Administration Proposal to Strengthen Community Colleges in the Nation and the Appalachian Region

January 2015


WASHINGTON, January 9, 2015—A new proposal announced today by President Obama would strengthen the role of community colleges in promoting workforce development and economic growth in the nation and the Appalachian Region.

The "America's College Promise" proposal announced by the president at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, would make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor's degree and learn skills needed in the workforce at no cost.

The proposal would create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college.

"Put simply, what I'd like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for anybody who's willing to work for it," President Obama said as he undertook a three-state tour to preview his State of the Union address. "It's something we can accomplish, and it's something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anyone in the world."

In view of the global economy's increasing demand for skilled and knowledgeable workers, ARC has been a strong supporter of the community colleges in the Appalachian Region, helping build their capacities and expand their reach.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl underscored their role in Appalachia's economic development: "Appalachia's community colleges are critical to strengthening the Region's economic future. The president's proposal to further invest in community colleges is an investment that will pay significant dividends in the Region. Pellissippi State Community College is a great location for this announcement as it is one of Appalachia's leading community colleges."

Under the proposal, community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate; states must invest more in higher education and training; and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. An estimated 9 million students could benefit if all states participate, and a full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.