Gains in enrollment and retention seen as possible benefits to comm. college tuition plan

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- President Barack Obama is hoping to ease the financial burden of college tuition for an estimated nine million students. He's announced a plan that could mean two free years of community college for some students.

This proposal aims to make college education more accessible and be a pathway to a college education for Americans who qualify.

"I thought I was going to have to take out loans," said Andrew Forbeck, a student at Metropolitan Community College.

It's a thought that many students like Forbeck consider before going to school.

"It was only $93 a credit hour here," added Forbeck, "So the price fit well for what I was looking for."

Forbeck is in his second year at MCC. He works full-time to help pay for it, but has government assistance since he was in the military.

"It's very challenging because you have to be very good at time management, I work around 36 hours a week, trying to make sure I can afford where I live at now, and then also trying to do well in school," Forbeck said.

Forbeck thinks if Pres. Obama's proposal for two free years of community college passes, it will help people like himself in the future.

"I thought it was an excellent program," said Forbeck, "The first thought was, I wish it was mentioned earlier for my generation coming in."

Tuition for two years at MCC is around $6,000 for an associate's degree. The chancellor, Mark James, says it's tough for some students to come up with that money.

"Roughly about half of our students are self pay, they're working or coming up with the means, and the other half are under some sort of scholarship or financial aid," said James.

Chancellor James says removing financial barriers will result in more students going to community college and graduating.

"Our research shows that the number reason why students don't complete, why they do drop out, is financially based," he added.

This proposal would require the students going to school for free to maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

"A lot of people that attend community college, a majority of them plan on attending a four year college, so you need a minimum of at least a 2.5 GPA in most universities to transfer," said Forbeck.

James says this plan will certainly have an economic impact.

"There's a lot of research and data that shows the value of an associate's degree, and a bachelor's degree on average, people who attend a level of higher education over the course of a lifetime do earn a lot more money," he said.

Forbeck says stressing about money to pay for school could become a thing of the past.

"Don't have to worry about that anymore, you could just focus on school," Forbeck said.

This proposal uses a combination of federal and state tax dollars to cover the costs for the first two years. It will take legislation and approval from Congress to make the proposal a reality.

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