Sen. Baldwin introduces proposal for free two-year technical college

President Obama introduced America's College Promise Act of 2015 in January

An estimated 9 million Americans will benefit from a newly talked about piece of legislation that would make two-year community and technical college free for first-time students.

It’s called America’s College Promise Act of 2015 and was first introduced by President Barack Obama in January.

One of the main reasons given for people not going to college is cost and the fear of debt.      

An Experian study found that student loans have increased by 84 percent since the recession from 2008 to 2014. 

But lawmakers in support of the ACP said it will help relieve debt while making college more affordable for those willing to work for it.

Every year, millions of Americans enroll in college, whether it’s a four-year or two-year institution.

“By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require post-secondary education and training,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Over the past several years, two-year community and technical colleges have gained in popularity.

“Western has seen an increase in enrollment,” said Lee Rasxh, president of Western Technical College. “Typically, we will have 12-15 programs that will have waiting lists.”

“Community colleges graduate nearly 40 percent of our nation’s undergraduate students,” said Duncan.

Along with a growing economy and push for more skilled workers, some lawmakers are looking for ways to increase that number without increasing someone’s debt

“All students deserve the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed without drowning in student debt,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Wisconsin.

Baldwin, along with others, introduced a new piece of legislation Wednesday outlining the effort.

“We will create a new partnership between the federal government, states and Native tribes to help wave tuition at two-year institutions,” said Baldwin.

In the proposal, the federal government would pay for three-quarters of the tuition, and the state would pick up the remaining balance. It’s estimated to cost about $90 billion over 10 years. However, not everyone has to participate.

“We would only partner with those states that are going to invest in education and with those colleges that are going to maintain quality,” said Duncan.

Rasch said it’s definitely something to consider.

“The need for states and colleges and communities to get real about what the work force demands are going to be over the next ten years, there are a lot of people in skilled work forces retiring,” said Rasch.

Rasch said if something isn’t done, Wisconsin will lose its advantage.

“If a community has a significant retirement of skilled workers in major companies and are not getting the replacements, what will happen is those companies will look for workers around the country where they can find those workers,” said Rasch.

The free two-year tuition would be available for first-time students who meet certain academic requirements at community, technical and tribal colleges.

With this legislation, a full-time community college student could save about $3,800 in tuition every year.

The proposal has not been formally introduced to Congress, yet. Supporting legislators hope to get more bipartisan support first so it has a better chance of passing in the end.

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