President Barack Obama proposed the concept of allowing free community college for two years in his State of the Union address back in January, but the possible impact it might have on four-year universities like Ohio State is still up in the air.
“By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need,” Obama said in his speech. “It’s not fair to them and it’s sure not smart for our future. That’s why I’m sending to Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college, to zero.”
Despite the president’s goals for his plan, free community college is just a proposal, so it is hard to tell what kind of effect it will have on universities like OSU, said Dolan Evanovich, vice president for strategic enrollment planning.
“What’s proposed now and what’s approved later, we’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to play out,” Evanovich said. “But if it is approved, we expect that we’ll probably see more students that will go to a community college, if it is in fact approved to be free, and then potentially transfer here.”
OSU already has a program in place to help students transition from community college at Columbus State. The Preferred Pathway program is a partnership OSU has with Columbus State that allows students to “pre-major” at Columbus State for the degree they plan to get at OSU.
“Columbus State is our biggest feeder community college. Far and away, it is our biggest partner,” Evanovich said. “They do a great job with preparing students their first two years.”
The Preferred Pathway program is where OSU would start if the proposal was passed, Evanovich said. OSU could expand that model to other community colleges like Lorain County Community College, Cuyahoga Community College and Sinclair Community College, he added.
Helping transfer students be successful is sometimes a challenge because they’ve already gone through an orientation and don’t think they need to go through it again, Evanovich said.
“Having a support program for students that transferred is really important to help them start off on the right track and be successful at Ohio State,” Evanovich said.
Meagan Yanczura, a third-year in communication, said being able to receive two years of community college for free would have affected the college she attended.
“I probably would have gone somewhere like Columbus State. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I transferred to Ohio State (from the University of Cincinnati), so if I could have gotten some general education requirements taken care of for free, it would have been really beneficial,” Yanczura said.
Yanczura said she thinks two free years of community college would help students organize their thoughts before embarking on a set educational path.
“I feel like a lot of people are in the same boat and it would helpful for people to figure out what they want to do,” she said.