Local free community college plans may be template for US

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks during a town-hall meeting at Benedict College, Friday, March 6, 2015, in Columbia, S.C., about the importance of community involvement. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

CHICAGO (AP) — The concept of free community college has been touted by President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidates, and some Republicans.

The idea is to curb student debt and boost employment by removing cost from the equation. However, some educators are concerned the push could divert students and scholarships away from four-year schools and still create student debt.

And some of the proposals could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Thousands of high school graduates have just started community college for free, with the first batch enrolled in independent first-year programs in Tennessee, Chicago and soon Oregon doing so under different price tags and philosophies.

That offers templates of what a federal program might look like and where the glitches could be. Other states are watching and considering their own programs.

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