‘Timing couldn’t be better’ for president’s community college proposal

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RICHMOND, Va. -- President Obama announced Thursday that he wants to make community college more affordable by proposing the federal and state governments pay for the first two years of it.

The fear of graduating high school, and then going into debt the first two or four years out leaves many opting for no higher education.

Others decide to take the first two years at their local community college. Many community colleges are seeing their enrollments increase.

And now, the future looks even brighter. Community colleges surprised by the presidents move to make the first two years of college free to students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

"This was certainly an exciting announcement, not one we knew about," said Ted Raspiller, president of John Tyler Community College.

Many in higher education see this issue in the national spot light, a step in the right direction. But congress will still have to agree to make it happen.

“That’s the question for nine million students, right,” said Raspiller. “Can we make this happen? I think the need is that great and I think the timing couldn't be better.”

“And so whether it's this or something similar to this, I don't think we have a choice."

Community colleges like John Tyler say this couldn't come at a better time as they focus on skills. Saying work force development and training are the future.

"The 70 percent that don't require a bachelor’s degree, the two-thirds that require skills, that's our sweet spot," said Raspiller.

Virginia Commonwealth University senior Sarah Alcorn is excited about the proposal.

"A lot of people feel like they can't even go to college because they're so worried about finances of it, so being able to just kind of take that burden off of them, for at least the first two years,” Alcorn explained.

"I think it would be an incentive for students in high school, it would be a breath of fresh air, you know, ok, it's going to be ok, I can do, I can take my 1st two years and be ok." said Gina Kochany, parent of John Tyler Community College student.

Part of the president’s proposal is that the students have to do their part to qualify and that means maintaining a 2.5 grade point average, which some say should be the minimum.