Students in This State Have Something to Celebrate: Free Community College

With student loan debt crippling the economy, two years of free higher education could make a world of difference.
Graduates of Oregon's Chemeketa Community College. (Photo: Facebook)
Jul 18, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

If you’re considering a move to the Northwest, Oregon is the place to be. Not only is it one of the top 10 states for local eating and one of four that mandates paid sick days, but it recently become the second state in the nation to foot the bill for higher education.

Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill on Friday that would send Oregon residents to one of its 17 community college for free.

“Today, we fling wide open the doors of opportunity by expanding access to post-secondary education, the precursor to a better life,” Brown said in a press release.

Senate Bill 81, also called the “Oregon Promise,” expects to assist between 4,000 and 6,000 students in the 2016–2017 academic year. The government has set aside $10 million to offset the costs.

Oregon follows in the footsteps of Tennessee, where the state government started such a program last year. President Barack Obama presented a similar federal proposal just before his state of the union address in January. The commander in chief’s plan would assist 9 million students in every state across the nation at a cost of $60 billion over 10 years.

Similar to Tennessee’s plan, Oregon hopefuls must have a 2.5 grade point average and enroll in the community college or technical school within six months of graduation or receiving a GED. That means adults looking to go back to school are not eligible.

So, Why Should You Care? Not only does this plan encourage attendance for low-income students, but with student loan debt at an all-time high of $1.2 trillion for the 40 million Americans still paying off college, it could save students a lot of money. Those looking for more than an associate’s degree can cut their costs in half by attending a four-year university for the second half of their college career. This would help recent graduates enter the job market without the burden of debt—or at least a reduced figure.

Student debt doesn’t just hurt those who have it but the economy as a whole. Up to 45 percent of graduates age 24 and under live at home or with a family member, delaying life events like marriage, having a child, buying a home, or starting a business—all of which cause the economy to stagnate.

As there’s been zero movement on Obama’s plan since its January proposal, it will likely be up to the states to take matters into their own hands.