“It changes the trajectory of their families lives, it grows the workforce”, local education leaders react to free community college proposal

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMND) – A new proposal by President Joe Biden could send students to community college with no tuition costs. Some leaders of local colleges say the plan may be life-changing.

As more employers ask for training or education beyond high school, leadership at Illinois Central College says the number of individuals that meet those requirements is lagging.

“We’re in a situation where 40 percent of our adults have a credential beyond high school, yet 60 percent of jobs require a credential past high school,” said Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, President of Illinois Central College.

Heartland Community College’s President, Dr. Keith Cornille, explains some face a number of barriers, one of those includes the costs of education.

In an effort that may help, this week, President Biden announced a plan that would make 2 years of community college tuition-free.

“If an individual knows that at a minimum the tuition is covered, that provides them with a great leg up,” Cornille said.

Another significant piece of Biden’s plan is an $80 billion dollar investment in Pell Grants. Quirk-Bailey says this may especially help students that work several jobs.

“People would be able to possibly cut down on one of those part-time jobs, go to school, and earn a credential that would actually change their life,” she said.

She goes on to says the opportunity to learn and gain new skills is beneficial beyond the student themselves.

“It changes the trajectory of their families lives, it grows the workforce so businesses are more stable,” Quirk-Bailey said.

Cornille explains that community colleges will play a vital role in keeping the national and local economies strong.

“We are going to have to make sure that we keep people sharp, and upskill them, and advance their skills in everything they do,” he said.

The White House says if all states, territories, and tribes participate more than 5 million students could be impacted.

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