President Obama’s plan to offer tuition-free community college would cost taxpayers $80 billion over the next decade, the White House said in advance of Obama rolling out his program Friday.
The federal government would pay $60 billion, while the states would pay $20 billion.
"That is a significant investment, but it's one the president believes is worthwhile because we need to make sure that America's young people are getting the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
The White House originally refused to say how much the program would cost, but under repeated questioning, told reporters Friday it would cost the federal government $60 billion.That number covers only the federal share of the program, not what states would have to pay for students to attend community college who maintain a 2.5 grade point average.
States would have to pay another $20 billion over the next 10 years, according to analysts.
The White House is modeling the initiative after a Tennessee program called "Tennessee Promise," which uses lottery funds to cover costs. Obama will officially announce his plan later Friday in Tennessee.
Schultz said Obama would release details of how he intends to pay for the effort when his budget is made public next month.
However, the measure is likely dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, as Republicans say such initiatives should be left up to individual states.
“This seems more like a talking point than a plan,” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“The president’s proposal appears to be a top-down federal program that will ask already cash-strapped states to help pick up the tab,” added Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. “Ultimately, any efforts to reboot Tennessee Promise as a one-size-fits-all nationwide approach will be met with heavy skepticism from Congress.”