Tom Hanks is the newest fan of President Obama’s push to make community college free.
In a New York Times Op-Ed Wednesday titled “I Owe It All to Community College,” the Oscar-winning 58-year-old — who attended Chabot community college in Hayward, Calif. — writes that the experience “
made me what I am today.”
Hanks explains he graduated from high school as “an underachieving student with
lousy SAT scores” and no way to afford college. Chabot was the perfect answer to Hank’s question of what to do with his life after high school “
because it accepted everyone and was free.”
During his two years at the school, Hanks took classes he loved (oral interpretation), classes he loathed (health, a requirement), classes he aced (film as art), and classes he dropped after the first hour (astronomy, “because it was all maths”). Hanks says he “nearly failed zoology, killing my fruit flies by neglect, but got lucky in an English course, ‘The College Reading Experience.'”
By the time he graduated, Hanks had made Chabot’s dean’s list. He went on to California State University in Sacramento, where he studied theatre arts before dropping out to pursue acting full-time. Luckily, things worked out for the hopeful kid from Oakland, Calif.
Since then, Hanks says that “classes I took at Chabot have rippled through my professional pond,” citing “an outline format I learned from a pipe-smoking historian, James Coovelis, whose lectures were riveting” he used while producing
the 2008 HBO mini-series “John Adams” as just one example of many.
Hanks concluded by offering his support for Obama’s proposal that would make two years of community college free for anyone willing to work for it:
President Obama hopes to make two years of free community college accessible for up to nine million Americans. I’m guessing the new Congress will squawk at the $US60 billion price tag, but I hope the idea sticks, because more veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan this time, as well as another generation of mothers, single parents and workers who have been out of the job market, need lower obstacles between now and the next chapter of their lives. High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life’s work. Many lives will be changed.
Under Obama’s proposal, students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their programs would have their tuition eliminated.
The White House said the program would be taken in partnership with states and was inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $US3,800 in tuition a year, according to Reuters.
Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson are longtime supporters of Obama, often attending fundraisers. Hanks even narrated a campaign video in 2012 and the actor was celebrated by Obama last year at The Kennedy Center Honours.
To read Tom Hanks’ full NYT essay, click here.