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Minnesota colleges positive about President's plan for free courses

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Colleges and students in Minnesota have welcomed the potentially "game-changing" proposal from President Obama to offer free community college courses.

The President on Thursday revealed his plan to offer free two-year courses to American students provided they attend at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA, which is expected to save them on average $3,800-a-year.

KARE 11 reports that the plan has gone down well with those at North Hennepin Community College, where two-thirds of students currently use financial aid.

Interim chief academic officer Landon Pirius told the station: "Not only would it help our students continue on that are already here, but it would open the doors to higher education to those who are not here for financial reasons."

According to WCCO, the average Minnesota student graduates with $27,300 of debt, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College President Avelino Mills-Novoa thinks this could encourage more minority students to go to college, where previously they could not afford it.

"Imagine graduating with two years, having all your generals done and no debt," she told the station.

Dr. Annette Parker, president of South Central College in Faribault, told the Faribault Daily News the program is a "game changer" that would "build a pathway to a university and to work."

In spite of the positive response from educators, the plan faces opposition from Republicans concerned about the $70 billion-a-year cost.

Republican Senate minority leader David Hann told WCCO the proposed bill is a gimmick, saying: "It doesn’t get at what the real problem is in education, which is what goes on in the K-12 system."

"We have an achievement gap, we have a trouble getting kids to graduate," he added.

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