President Obama offers free community college

Courtesy of the White House

On Jan. 8, President Barack Obama announced a proposal that offers two years of free community college tuition to students who meet certain requirements. This could affect up to 9 million students across the nation if legislation is passed in Congress.

According to the statement, students are required to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and must be enrolled at least half-time — six or more units — to qualify for the program. In addition, the proposal states that the federal government will provide three-quarters of the tuition, with individual states expected to provide the last quarter.

This proposal could have a major impact on the future transfer students who will attend UCR. Transfer student applications have increased, growing from 6,894 applications in 2012 to 7,831 in 2015. In addition, one in six students on campus are transfer students with 78 percent receiving some form of financial assistance.

According to Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs LaRae Lundgren, transfer recruitment is a major focus of the UC. The UC Office of the President states that this focus is meant to increase access to higher education for Californians, especially underserved students, in order to increase socioeconomic diversity in the UC.

Despite a majority of transfer students receiving financial assistance, 55 percent of UCR transfer students also took out loans to pay for their education in fall 2013. According to Arturo Perez, a fourth-year transfer student and Transfer Outreach Program (TOPS) mentor, existing forms of aid are not enough for some students.

“While I received financial assistance to pay for community college, I remember a girl who struggled to afford to pay for her education, she had to work a job in addition to supporting two kids.” Perez stated.

Transfer Outreach Head Coordinator Cinthya Gonzalez, a fourth-year sociology/administrative studies major and transfer student discussed the importance of Obama’s program. ”We’re living in an age where a high school diploma isn’t getting you very far. So I think educating the majority by putting it out there as free is going to allow so many more Americans to become educated,” Gonzalez stated.

The Transfer Outreach Program at UCR provides resources, such as peer mentorships and information sessions to all transfer students on campus. Gonzalez attributes factors such as a higher graduation rate for transfers due to this program.

“I do think that the Transfer Outreach Program has been a success, because the program was founded in 2011 by a transfer student, and ever since then, the number of transfer students that are graduating has increased,” Gonzalez explained. Currently, 71 percent of transfer students graduate in four years.

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