01/13/2015 05:39 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

How Obama's College Proposal Could Really Help Low Income Families

Last week, President Barack Obama announced a plan that, if approved by Congress, would dedicate about $60 billion over 10 years to allow students to go to community college for free. While the plan has its share of critics, it could have a huge impact on families that are teetering on financial instability, supporters told HuffPost Live on Tuesday.

University of Pennsylvania associate professor Shaun Harper explained that while growing up in a low income family, coming up with the funds to pay for a college education was not easy. Harper sees potential in the proposal to help students like his mother, who is struggling to to put herself through school.

"This semester, my mom is enrolling in community college for the very first time," Harper said. "Sure, a Pell Grant will take her to a certain distance in her quest to earn an associate's degree, but I'm not at all certain that it will cover the full cost of what it takes to be at that particular community college in my hometown.”

For poor families, a few hundred dollars can be a "deal breaker" in their educational pursuits, he said.

"I think that some people that haven't grown up or whose livelihoods are not situated in economically stressful contexts, don't understand that $100, $200, $500, could be a very serious determinant of whether one enrolls or completes," Harper said.

Learn more about the implications of Obama's college proposal here.



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