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Obama proposes free community college

President Obama has proposed to make two years of community college free for all students who qualify.

President Obama has proposed making two years of community college free for all students who qualify.

"Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everyone who’s willing to work for it," Obama said in a video announcement on Facebook. The president will officially unveil the program at a community college in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Friday.

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To qualify for the program, "students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program," the White House said. The administration estimates that the program would help about 9 million students, saving the average full-time student about $3,800 per year.

The federal government will cover "three-quarters of the average cost of community college," and states that choose to participate will have to cover the remainder, the administration said. To be part of the program, the community colleges will be required to offer credits that can transfer to public four-year colleges or workforce training programs with high graduation rates. 

On a press call on Thursday, White House officials declined to elaborate on how the program would be paid for or how much it would cost, saying that the details would be in the president's forthcoming budget, which is expected to be released in early February. 

"This is the moment that is equivalent to the moment that we made high school universal," White House policy director Cecilia Munoz said. She pointed out that Tennessee's GOP Gov. Bill Haslam had passed a similar bill providing free tuition for students in his state.

"It is not a partisan proposal," she said. In order to become reality, though, Congress will have to approve the plan.