By Hannah Moore and Cole Mokry
On Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Barack Obama stood before the 114th Congress to deliver his annual State of the Union address. Some of the issues he covered included diplomatic relations with Cuba, bringing jobs back to America and pay equality. He affirmed to the American people that “the state of the Union is strong.”
Another policy addressed was “America’s College Promise.” This is a plan that would make all students’ two year tuition to a public community college free, no matter their ages. The only requirements would be to maintain a 2.5 grade point average and to work toward earning a degree.
Some students worry that this would affect Harding’s enrollment, arguing that Harding is not designed to be a school one transfers into.
“You don’t go to Harding because it’s cheap,” sophomore Kirk McDaniel said. “You go to Harding for the life experience. Arriving at Harding after two years would be strange and disappointing. Just as your social life began, it would end. Students go to Harding for the community of love and friendship.”
Summer Gibson, a senior who transferred from Lone Star College, said her late transition to Harding did not impede her social life.
“Your ‘Harding experience’ is what you make it one semester at a time,” Gibson said. “If you are going to make a difference here, no matter how or when you get here, if it’s Gods plan then it doesn’t matter when you arrive.”
Creed Burkhead, a senior who transferred in 2012 from Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, disagreed, saying many students have something to gain financially from the policy.
“With how expensive college has become, if people were offered free schooling elsewhere, I think they would take it so their debt would be lessened dramatically,” Burkhead said. “Students can benefit from transferring to a 4-year university.”
Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management Glenn Dillard said students will still choose Harding, even with the possibility of free school elsewhere.
“Many of our current Harding students could have stayed at home and attended college for free or nearly free already,” Dillard said. “Many states currently offer free tuition to high school graduates with above average grades and above average standardized test scores. Instead, our students realize the many benefits of an education that offers a faith-based foundation.”
Just as Obama showed confidence in an improving America, President Bruce McLarty said he is confident in a persistent Harding.
“A Christian liberal arts higher education is a different endeavor that seeks a different outcome [than community colleges],” McLarty said. “We like to say around here that we are preparing our students for their first job and for every career change they may experience for the rest of their lives. And, most importantly at Harding, we do all of this preparation in a Christ-focused way.”