Reform higher education and make community college free

Caitlin Mota

In high school, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going away for school. I

planned on moving at least a few hours from home, even if it meant taking out a significant


I thought I had found my dream school, The University of New Haven. I thought I was

going to being a high school English teacher, stay five years, and leave with my masters. I

thought I was going to be close to $75,000 in debt when I graduated, and I was okay with that.

And then reality kicked in.

I could count the number of days until move-in day on one hand, and that’s when I found

out my loan fell through. Instantly, my life plan had changed.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I went to Hudson County Community College the

next morning to enroll. It was that day I learned the importance of having community colleges


Students who transfer to New Jersey public institutions or research universities with an

associate’s degree are able to transfer 60-64 credits under the Lampitt Bill.

After working harder in school than I ever had, NJCU offered me a full Presidential

Scholarship. This May, I’ll have my undergraduate degree with less than $5,000 in debt.

Community college helped me pave a successful future for myself: I realized I didn’t

want to be an English teacher, saved myself tens of thousands of dollars, and received a great

education along the way.

I benefited immensely from community college, so how could other New Jersey residents

not benefit from President Obama’s proposed idea for students across the nation to attend

community college for free?

In a realistic world this plan will take several years to be put into effect, but it’s not


Dr. Glen Gabert, President of Hudson County Community College, believes that while

there will likely be modifications to the bill it will be passed at some point.

Gabert compares the proposed idea to other bills that have successfully been passed.

“In the history of American higher education, there have been seminal events such as the

establishment of land grant colleges and the GI Bill of Rights. This is another landmark, and it

reflects a changing America,” Gabert said.

After graduation, students struggle to pay back loans they needed in order to get their

degree. With the economy struggling the past several years, many students have been unable to

find fulltime jobs as quickly as anticipated.

Free community college will not solve the student debt crisis entirely, but it is certainly

a step in the right direction. “The reality is that two years of some sort of higher education is as

necessary today as a high school education was one hundred years ago. The Obama proposal

reflects this, and it is also a strategic approach to the resolution of the national student debt

crisis,” Gabert said.

There are definitely some concerns about the price students would still be paying, even

with free education. Textbooks, typically, are not covered in tuition packages. Students would

need to find a way to shell out a few hundred dollars a year for essentials materials for the


NJCU already receives many of their students as transfers.

“Transfer students make up the majority of our incoming class and more than half of

them enter with associate’s degrees,” said Matthew Lahm, NJCU’s Transfer and Graduate

Admissions Counselor.

HCCC and NJCU are model examples of how higher education can operate. Both

schools make transferring, especially with an associate’s degree, easy and almost painless.

Now, it’s up to our elected officials to find the kinks in the proposal, fix them, and give

everyone a fair chance at a college degree without leaving a hole in student’s pockets.

Let’s face it; making all higher education free is unheard of. Being given the opportunity

to have the first half of undergrad free alleviates a lot of stress.