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Local community college president reacts to Obama's plan for free education

(Photo Source: Live 5 News) (Photo Source: Live 5 News)
ORANGEBURG, SC (WCSC) -

President Barack Obama will release more details on his plan to make community college free in his State of the Union Address on January 20. The president of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College says he's thrilled the President is putting the spotlight on two year institutions.

"We consider ourselves to be the first stop on the road to the American dream."

Dr. Walt Tobin has been at the helm of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College for four years. It's one of 16 community colleges in South Carolina.

"It just elevates the profile of the two-year sector. I think historically that the perception that the two-year college is a place that folks go when they can't get in anywhere else, and that's not the case."

President Barack Obama announced his plan on Thursday on Facebook.

"To put it simply, what I'd like to see is the first two years of community college free for anyone who is willing to work for it."

The White House says it could mean a savings of up to $3,800 a year for the average full time student.

The federal government and states would share the cost, which could total $70 billion.

"Accountability is the key. This is not a gift. This is a commitment that the President has made, the federal government is going to make. We've got to make sure that there's a return on the investment."

Tobin says the demand for a technically-skilled workforce in South Carolina is only growing.

"There will be 4500 healthcare workers needed over the course of the next two years, and we've got to be able to fill those jobs."

He says making community college even more accessible, is a win-win.

"By filling those jobs, those folks pay taxes. They spend money on the grocery store. It contributes to the economic development of this state and ultimately this nation."

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