Two weeks shy of the State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed his plan for two years of tuition-free community college. The White House shared the news on Jan. 8 via Facebook in a two minute video along with the hashtag, #FreeCommunityCollege. The video features an airborne President Obama outlining the framework for his proposal while flying to Tennessee on Air Force One to deliver a speech about the proposal.
The announcement has received mixed reviews from proponents and critics alike and is generating quite a buzz among the nation; or at least the nearly 8 million people who viewed, shared, and liked the video on Facebook.
Assuming that the proposal makes it past Congress, the plan, which has been dubbed America’s College Promise, could potentially help an estimated 9 million students. Under the proposed plan, students would have to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 in addition to being enrolled in school at least half-time. The details of the framework have yet to be released; however, President Obama is promising, “two years of free community college for anyone who’s willing to work for it.”
Social media is a much used strategy in the field of public relations to brand messages that appeal to a specific audience by focusing on what is said and how it is said. Obama is no stranger to utilizing digital tools as a platform to gain supporters. Since his election in 2008, he has been noted for being one of the only presidents to use social media as an engine to drive his presidency. President Obama was very strategic in choosing to whom to market his message. Posting the announcement to Facebook as well as including a hashtag pulls in a younger demographic, one which includes the very students who will be affected by the plan he is proposing.
Some Americans are wondering whether or not this promise is feasible. Because nothing is ever truly ”free,” someone will have to pay for all of this education, if not for the students. Will it be the taxpayers? Will it be more government funding leading to more government debt? Will the public support the means by which this idea could occur?
One also wonders why the president decided to unfold this new campaign so late into his second presidential term. Is this tactic aimed to improve his approval rating? Most everyone can agree that student debt needs to be alleviated. Creating more opportunities for Americans to receive more education and pursue higher goals than ever before is something that many would undoubtedly support.
By Deja Whitt
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.