VP Biden Calls Community College Plan “Gigantic Opportunity”

The community college plan would benefit an estimated 9 million students each year and cost taxpayers a projected $60 billion over 10 years

Vice President Joe Biden visited Los Angeles on Friday to talk about helping more Americans go to college, three days after President Barack Obama called on Congress to make two years of community college free.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Obama said he wants two years of college to be "as free and universal in America as high school is today." He also vowed to work with Congress to reduce monthly student loan payments for students already in debt.

"You think 12 years is enough? In the year 2015?" Biden said Friday at West Los Angeles Community College, touting Obama's proposal

The community college plan would benefit an estimated 9 million students each year and cost taxpayers a projected $60 billion over 10 years.

Students would have to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Community colleges would be required to offer programs with credits that can be transferred to four-year colleges and universities or offer in-demand, career-oriented training.

"We have a gigantic opportunity to do a great service not only to our children and our young people and people who need to be retrained, but we have a gigantic opportunity to position the United States of America in a position for the second half of the second decade of this century to lead the world -- this is not hyperbole -- lead the economy of the world for the next 50 years," Biden said.

West Los Angeles College is one of 15 California community colleges that received approval Tuesday to start offering career-oriented bachelor's degrees. The cost of college has become prohibitive for many people who are juggling education, family and work, Biden said

"We're delighted with this visit as we are delighted with the President's announcement," said West Los Angeles College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh. "Colleges fees are not the most pressing need. The cost of living in California, support for students, home care, child care for working mothers, cost of transportation, housing, the difficulty of maintaining a working schedule... those are some of the big questions we hope to raise."

The Republican-controlled Congress is likely to be hesitant to embrace such a high-cost idea. States would have to contribute a quarter of the cost, and it's unclear how many would support the program.

Ninio Fetalvo, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, blasted the community college proposal as yet another burden on taxpayers.

"Delivering empty rhetoric and misleading proposals are hallmarks of Obama's failed presidency, but the reality is Vice President Biden will continue to be a puppet for the president's costly proposals as they continue to refuse to work with Congress to create real solutions," Fetalvo said. "The president and vice president are misleading the American people on their college proposal, claiming it's free, when in reality it costs billions of dollars and taxes the college savings plans of middle-class Americans."

On Saturday, Biden will be in Irvine to deliver the keynote speech at the Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit at the Hotel Irvine, 17900 Jamboree Road.

He made a surprise visit to a downtown LA diner as well.

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