Obama struggles to gain support for free college

By Shelby Tankersley

On Sept. 9, President Barack Obama paid a visit to Macomb Community College to promote his idea of free community college for anyone who is willing to put in the work. Students would have to attend at least part time and maintain good grades to go to school for free.

Back in February, The Oakland Post provided coverage of this idea when Obama was first starting to promote it. Over seven months later, he is still struggling to find support for the law.

Political sciences professor David Dulio said he thinks the president is having a hard time gaining support simply because he and Congress don’t see eye-to-eye.

“There are probably a number of different things affecting this,” Dulio said. “One is simple partisan disagreement. You’ve got a Democratic president with a Republican controlled Congress. When you have a strained relationship like this president and this Congress have had, it only amplifies the difficulty.”

Dulio, along with fellow political sciences professor, Nicole Asmussen, said that they haven’t seen the president make an attempt to get this law drafted. 

Asmussen even mentioned that she thinks having a Republican support the law might have helped it gain some support.

“If he wanted it to be bipartisan he would get a Republican and a Democrat to sponsor it jointly in the house, but that isn’t what’s going on,” Asmussen said.

So far, the only Republican helping President Obama gain support for this law is the former Governor of Wyoming, Jim Geringer.

There is also the question of why President Obama decided to pay Michigan a visit instead of going somewhere else. As of recent, Macomb is the only place the president has come to gain support for this proposal.

“He could just be making the rounds,” Dulio said. “In the last several presidential elections, Michigan has voted Democratic. So in that way this is relatively friendly territory, but many other states fit that same bill. So I imagine that the White House likes to spread him around and not just go to the same place over and over again.”

That could be the case, seeing as Obama’s last visit to Michigan was in February of 2014. Asmussen said she thinks he came here because he thinks Michiganders would get behind this idea.

“This is somewhere he thinks people would be receptive to going to community college,” Asmussen said. “A lot of people here have experience working in factories and might want their kids to get a college degree, but they don’t have an attachment to a four year college.”

The bottom line is that President Obama will have to do some serious leg work to get Congress behind this idea. Whether or not his trip to Michigan helped has yet to be seen.