Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Newsom calls free two-year college plan ‘monumental’

 

January 20, 2015

Diana Cassidy (left), administrator for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs at Mesalands Community College, helps students Bethany Bishop and Cellisha Martinez get oriented to new iMac computers in a computer lab. Tuesday was the first day of classes for Mesalands’ Spring 2015 semester.

link Diana Cassidy (left), administrative assistant for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs at Mesalands Community College, helps students Bethany Bishop and Cellisha Martinez get oriented to new iMac computers in a computer lab.

Tuesday was the first day of classes for Mesalands’

Spring 2015 semester.

By Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor

President Barack Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college free of charge for an estimated 9 million students a year is “monumental,” Thomas Newsom, president of Mesalands Community College, said Wednesday.

Newsom compared its potential impact to that of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which launched thousands of colleges in the nation, and the G.I. Bill, which offers free educational benefits for military veterans.

“It would increase access to community college education to help keep our economy growing in jobs,” he said, “and it’s an opportunity for people who, because of economic conditions, have not been able to attend college. I think it’s fantastic.”

In 10 to 15 years, Newsom said, “five or six of every 10 jobs created will require some education beyond high school. Three of every 10 may require a bachelor’s degree.

The best way to grow the economy and the labor force, he said, is through higher education.

Extending free community college education to all who graduate from high school would enhance advantages already in place at Mesalands, Newsom said.

Many Mesalands students currently receive Pell grants, which provide funds for tuition, books and other educational expenses for students who qualify based on income, he said.

For these and other students, he said, the college’s position as the nation’s seventh most affordable community college already creates “a high level of accessibility,” he said, while helping to keep students’ costs in line. The website AffordableColleges.com designated Mesalands as one of the most affordable community colleges in the nation based on low tuition cost and a 47-percent financial aid rate.

Under the president’s plan, students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and attend community college at least half time will receive their community college education free. The plan calls for the federal government to fund 75 percent of the costs and states to cover the remaining 25 percent, according to Whitehouse.gov, the White House website.

Community colleges will be expected to offer classes that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or occupational training programs with high graduation rates that lead to in-demand degrees and certificates, the White House website said.

Newsom said Mesalands is expanding health-care career training opportunities in nursing and phlebotomy, and is developing more options for its silversmithing and other metal-crafting programs, as well as its graphic design program.

If all 50 states choose to implement the President's new community college proposal, it could save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average, Whitehouse.gov said.

“Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades' worth of student debt,” Whitehouse.gov said.

 

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