NKU prepares for incoming community college students

In January, President Barack Obama proposed a plan in his State of the Union address that would allow students to attend community college free for up to two years, but according to NKU officials, the school is not concerned with the impact it might have on enrollment at the four-year institution.

“Admissions will not be affected – we would see an increase in enrollment in third year students after seeing an initial decrease in first year students,” Kimberly Scranage, vice president of enrollment and degree management, said.

But according to Ohio State University’s newspaper, The Lantern, more students will be going to community colleges than four-year institutions.

NKU has prepared for this impact by having a program already in place that helps students’ transition from community college at Gateway Community and Technical College. The program allows students to talk with advisers both at their current school and at NKU to create a list of courses that are eligible for transfer.

“People who finish a two year degree have a higher chance of completing a four year degree,” Scranage said. “ We are looking at the life-cycle of a student and saying how can we support student success for graduation.”

Under Obama’s proposed plan, community colleges will be free to students who are going to school at least half time who maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher, making steady progress toward a degree or transferring to a four-year institution.

“It sounds great,” Kaitlin Conway, business management major and junior at Northern Kentucky University, said. “I don’t know exactly what it is, but it sounds to me that free community would be for everyone?”

Scranage said that Obama’s vague proposal has misguided students’ actual ideas for free community college.

“There is a lot of requirements that students must meet in order to be approved for free community college,” Scranage said. “If all those align, then if it is voted upon, the state agrees and the student meets the requirements, then the four-year will work closely with the two-year to develop those articulations for the students track of graduation.”

That being said, Leah Stewart, Director for the Office of Student Financial Assistance said states might opt out of the federal plan altogether.  

“States may opt out of the free community colleges,” Stewart said. “Being passed at the Federal level doesn’t mean states have to participate.”

According to Obama, community colleges must offer study programs that fulfill transfer requirements to four-year public schools or provide occupational training programs if they want to become eligible. They must also adopt evidence-based reforms to improve student outcomes.

Students at other universities weigh in on the plan.

“It’s so technical and eerie to even understand,” Manuel Asensio, business marketing major and senior at the University of Cincinnati, said. “It always sounds great when these plans come out, but when it is passed only a quarter of the people are actually eligible; makes zero sense to me.”

NKU officials are waiting to see if the president’s proposal is approved, until then, the plans they have in place will help the university see little to no change in admissions and enrollment.