Oregon becomes the second state in America to offer two years of free college education - including tuition fees and maintenance grants

Obama hopes to launch a similar nationwide initiative - if he can get it through the Republicans

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The state of Oregon looks set to give its high school leavers a gift that would leave most students across England green with envy: two years of free college.

State leaders are following in the footsteps of Tennessee to become the second state in the US to pass the Oregon Promise bill which has already been pushed through Oregon State Legislature.

Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill this week, making the move official and paving the way for the state to spend $10m-a-year (£6.4m) to fill in the tuition gaps that state and federal aid don’t cover.

As well as having their tuition fees paid – currently at $4,900-a-year (£3,150) – the eligible community-college students will also receive a minimum grant of $1,000 (£640) each which can be used to cover travel costs, books and other expenses besides tuition.

President of the state’s Blue Mountain Community College, Camille Preus, welcomed the move and said she hoped Oregon Promise will act as a pathway for students who might have otherwise drifted away from college because of the cost.

Democratic state senator in Oregon, Mark Hass, described the initiative as a “bold, visionary” idea and said it would help 70,000 people in Oregon – between the ages of 18 and 24 and have no job or higher education – by better-enabling them to enter the workforce.

He added: “We like to study things in Oregon. And for the last two years, we have been studying how to make this happen here.”

After six years in the pipeline, Tennessee Promise became the first of its kind in America to offer eligible high school seniors the chance to go to one of the state’s 13 community colleges, or 27 colleges of applied technology tuition-free – and was quick to draw national spotlight.

Beginning this autumn, around 18,000 high school graduates are expected to take advantage of the initiative.

President Obama, who took inspiration from Tennessee Promise, launched a similar nationwide initiative called America’s College Promise in which he hoped 9 million students from across the nation could benefit from higher education.

Obama's proposal, however, looks set to hit some rough patches along the way as it requires the support of the Republican-controlled Congress which is sceptical about the overall cost of the nationwide initiative, saying taxpayers would be hit hard.

Watch President Obama announce his plan for free community college education throughout America: