Obama wants community college to be free

Obama announces free college plan

Free education "for those willing to work for it."

That's what President Obama announced Friday in a bid to make the first two years of community college free for "responsible" students.

The president announced the proposal at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., a significant location. "America's College Promise" is modeled after a Tennessee program (called "Tennessee Promise"), which covers the cost of community college tuition not covered by grants and scholarships. It also requires the student to have a mentor, perform 8 hours of community service per term, and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

The president teased the proposal in a video announcement on Facebook and Vine Thursday evening.

If passed, Obama's plan would require both federal and state governments to split the tab. States would have the option to participate.

"No one with drive and discipline should be denied a college education simply because they can't pay for it," Obama said Friday. "A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class."

Education gap 'terrible for our democracy'

Obama's would also require congressional legislation, which is expected to be difficult now that Republicans control both the House and Senate.

If every state participated, the proposal could help 9 million students and save full-time enrollees an average of $3,800 a year, according to the White House.

Sara O'Brien contributed to this report.

Have you participated in the Tennessee program that President Obama is using as a model for his proposal? If so, we'd like to hear about your experience. Email CNNMoney staff reporter Sara O'Brien.

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