President Obama wants to make community college free

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — President Obama wants to make it free for students to enroll in community colleges. He proposed the so-called "America’s College Promise" Friday afternoon. WGNO News Reporter Darian Trotter has details and local reaction.

"Today I’m announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America."

President Obama proposed Friday to make the first two years of community college free for students who meet basic academic performance standards.

It's a move that could help millions of students nationwide get a quality education and save money.

The proposal is already getting a thumbs up at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

"We’re excited. We're very excited to know that the president recognizes the work of community technical colleges across the United States. Delgado community college has been doing this for a century here in New Orleans; contributing to the lives of local residents in greater New Orleans," Delgado Vice Chancellor Stanton McNeely said.

To be eligible, students must attend community college at least half-time maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.5.

The plan could save students an average of $3,800 per year.

A similar program is already underway in Tennessee.

"We’re interested in learning more about what's happening in Tennessee that the president referred to. That reference right there gives us a baseline for assessing what can be done on a state level," McNeely said.

Community colleges must offer programs that allow students to transfer to four-year universities or provide occupational training programs.

"Go Obama, go right ahead," student Cody Marshall said.

Students are anxious to see how the plan plays out.

"Because it's hard sometimes coming out of your pocket, paying for your classes. When you have financial aid and stuff to help you out it's a big load off your shoulders," student Leeza Greff said.

"Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it because in America a quality education should not be a privilege that's reserved for a few."

The federal government would cover 75-percent of the cost. Participating states will be required to cover the rest.

President Obama believes the plan would make the U.S. more competitive in the global economy.

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