The Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Board of Trustees recently voted in a 5-2 decision to support President Barack Obama’s recently announced proposal to make the first two years of community college free.
The plan would require $60 billion over ten years and would allow thousands of people across the nation to pursue a tuition-free college education if they attend school at least half-time and carry a minimum 2.5 GPA. Many SBCC students and administrators chose to support the proposal but expressed that it could take years before the plan is passed through Congress.
District 6 representative for the City College Board of Trustees and UCSB alumnus Jonathan Abboud said the proposal will encourage people previously deterred by high tuition costs to pursue a college education.
“The board passed a resolution to support the plan,” Abboud said. “The reason being that the cost of education is too high. There’s a strong need for educating individuals, especially in our state, and that can be accomplished through a more universal education.”
SBCC President Lori Gaskin said the Board of Trustees came to an agreement that all individuals who wish to earn a degree should have an equal opportunity to pursue higher education.
“We have a commitment to providing access and opportunity to all of our citizens,” Gaskin said. “What better way to do that than to make the first two years of community college available to everyone, so that nobody is left out because of any financial burden?”
This proposal can really help students not feel discouraged to accomplish their goals because of financial problems. – Second-year SBCC chemistry major Brenda Mendiola-Bedolla
But both students and administrators will need to keep up with certain academic standards in order to be eligible for free tuition under the proposal, Gaskin said.
“For example, carrying a minimum GPA, regularly attending and taking certain credits each term,” Gaskin said. “In addition, the institution is going to have certain criteria that it needs to meet because we need to assure that we’re shepherding our students towards their academic goals in an effective and efficient manner.”
According to Abboud, Obama’s plan is a huge step in the right direction despite the proposal’s low chances of getting through Congress.
“I think this plan doesn’t have the best shot of getting passed, but I think that’s what our country’s policy is going to be one day,” Abboud said. “I think this plan is the first step on the path towards providing a universal education to the people in America. I support the resolution because I felt that we were taking the first step towards making something happen.”
Although the Board passed the proposal, Gaskin said she is unsure whether or not the state will vote to support it because of California’s already low tuition in comparison to other states.
“The way I understand it, each state is going to have the ability to opt in or opt out,” Gaskin said. “The state of California heavily subsidizes higher education as it is right now. If you compare the tuition of California community colleges with other community colleges around the nation, ours is really quite low. So I don’t know where our state is going to stand.”
Some of the obvious cons are that we would have to re-appropriate money from another program or raise taxes. However, I think this issue is a priority enough that they shouldn’t be viewed as cons. – SBCC Trustee and UCSB alumnus Jonathan Abboud
One main concern facing the state is acquiring sufficient funds for free course offerings, although according to Abboud the benefits will outweigh the costs.
“The pros are definitely that more people are going to have access to a higher education. No one will be barred from going to college anymore,” Abboud said. “Some of the obvious cons are that we would have to re-appropriate money from another program or raise taxes. However, I think this issue is a priority enough that they shouldn’t be viewed as cons.”
Second-year SBCC chemistry major Brenda Mendiola-Bedolla said the board voted on the decision “because they don’t want money to be an issue for college students.”
“Also I know a few students, including myself, that has requested for loans as a city college student. It’s not pretty. I’d rather not be in debt when I transfer to a UC,” Mendiola-Bedolla said. “This proposal can really help students not feel discouraged to accomplish their goals because of financial problems.”
According to Mendiola-Bedolla, she supports the board’s decision because it will make it easier for students financially to receive a college education.
“I agree with community college being free because students will have more of an opportunity to a college education without the stress of having sufficient money to pay for their classes, books, rent etc.,” Mendiola-Bedolla said. “If community college was free right now, my life would be way easier. I’d have enough money to buy my books and to set aside for emergencies. I also would feel way less stressed.”
Obama’s proposal parallels the board’s view that a college education is paramount in order to improve the economy and individual’s quality of life, Gaskin said.
“I think the Board’s resolution is very much in line with President Obama’s understanding, awareness and commitment to community colleges,” Gaskin said. “We are the work forces of the California higher education system. It’s really affirming that he continues to understand our role in providing access to higher education to our citizenry.”