Why Tom Hanks And I Agree That Community College Should Be Free

Photo by Eric James Sarmiento via Flickr
Photo by Eric James Sarmiento via Flickr

Gone are the days when young adults didn’t need a high school diploma to get a great job. Many job requirements call for a diploma along with on the job training, a bachelor’s degree, some form of certification from a trade school, or an associate’s degree from their candidates. It is because of this that it has ultimately made it harder to get a job if you couldn’t afford some form of higher education.

A friend of mine has learned this the hard way. She wanted to make more than what she has made in the past at the numerous retail and fast food positions she has worked at, but as she looked at the job descriptions and requirements she realized that she wasn’t qualified. She confided in me that she felt stuck. The dilemma, however, isn’t that she knows she has to go to some form of school, but that she realizes that she can’t afford higher education and is afraid of falling into thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt.

President Obama has mentioned a solution to my friend’s problem last week by proposing “to offer two years of free community college tuition to students,” despite the groan at the “$60 billion price tag over 10 years…from Republican lawmakers.”

I’ve seen great things come from community colleges. In fact I have many friends who have graduated, or who are on their way to graduating, from a four-year university and who are on their way to graduate school or an exciting new career because they have started out their academic career at a community college. They have benefited from saving their money and transferring their two years worth of credits to great institutions and have become “unstuck” from their previous situations.

And then there’s Tom Hanks and his opinion article from The New York Times. The famed Hollywood actor attributes a lot of success to Chabot College in Hayward California. It was there where he studied theater, met new people from all walks of life and, what he says, made him who he is today.

“I hope the idea sticks, because more veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan this time, as well as another generation of mothers, single parents and workers who have been out of the job market, need lower obstacles between now and the next chapter of their lives. High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life’s work. Many lives will be changed.”

-Tom Hanks [The New York Times]

If knowledge is power and the older generation wants to leave the world a better place, and offer their children more opportunities from what they had in the past, then aiding the younger generation in receiving an education is the greatest thing anyone can do. It is from there, after obtaining a degree or certificate, that it will be easier for the younger generation to feed and take care of themselves, create new jobs, invent new technology and leave the world a better place for their children as well.

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