Why Free Community College Is Good For Hispanics

by Elizabeth Elizalde

Abigail Miguel plans to go to community college in the fall. The 17-year-old New York City High School of Telecommunications senior said she’s ready to tackle the responsibilities that come with it. She knows about the work load that will include writing papers, studying for finals and she feels she can handle it all. But she worries about paying for her college tuition.

“It’s mostly about the money,” she said. “I have to find the money to pay for my textbooks.” That’s why she thinks President Obama’s free community college plan will benefit her.

The “America’s College Promise,” highlighted by the President in his State of the Union address, could help about nine million people who want to continue their education.

“I think this is an amazing idea!” said Andy Marte, a teacher and community activist in Brooklyn. “It would benefit so many low income working class people.”

That’s why  free community college is good for Hispanics. They often start college and then drop out because they can’t afford to continue.

A recent Pew study found that while more Hispanics attend college than ever before, almost half of Hispanic college students attend two-year public schools.

Kingsborough 2


Students enroll in community college when they don’t qualify for a four-year school, or can’t afford higher tuition. Some don’t meet academic standards because the schools they attend don’t prepare them adequately.

They pay about $3,800 for community college tuition. Under the Obama plan, the federal government would pick up most of it, and the states would pay a quarter of the cost

To qualify, part and full-time students would have to maintain a 2.5 GPA and demonstrate progress and commitment to the programs. Community colleges would have to offer courses that can lead to high demand degrees and credits that allow students  to eventually transfer to a public four-year college or university.

Abigail Miguel wishes the Obama free tuition program was in place now.  She’ll start Kingsborough Community College, part of the City University of New York, with partial financial aid, but she’ll pay a big portion of the tuition herself.  “It’s going to be hard for me and for my parents,” she said.

Nevertheless, she can help herself thanks to another Obama initiative. She’s one of the millions of Dream Act young people brought to the United States by their parents.  And the President’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) gave her temporary legal status and allowed her to get a  work permit and a driver’s license. So she plans  to find a part-time job to pay for her college expenses.

Abigail and others will keep an eye on what the new Republican-controlled Congress does. They hope the lawmakers will back the President’s idea to help people who can use the financial leg-up.

“It could make a lot of changes towards my education,” she said.



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