Columbia Basin College Pledges Support for President Obama's Fre - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Columbia Basin College Pledges Support for President Obama's Free Community College Plan

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PASCO, WA. -- Columbia Basin College wants community college to be free across the country. That's what school and student representatives said Monday as the school pledged its support to a controversial program proposed by President Obama.

Community college could soon be free to a lot of students. Columbia Basin College pledged their support for President Obama's proposal in the works.

School officials say hundreds of students at CBC would be affected. On Monday, we talked to one of them, who says this would have changed his life.

David Ruiz knows what it's like to pay your way through college. A Pasco High graduate and the son of migrant farm workers, it took him 8 years to graduate from University of Washington while working 3 different jobs. 

"I worked in the fields," Ruiz said. "My dad taught me everything about how to work hard. But that taught me, I don't want to be a farm laborer. I want an education."

Now he's back in Pasco, going to CBC studying cyber security. But he'll never forget the moment he handed his father his college diploma. 

"And I gave it to him and he was very proud," Ruiz said. "He gave me a hug and he was crying because he felt like he achieved something that he always wanted to do."

The world of community college could change dramatically. And Columbia Basin College is accepting that change. President Obama wants to make community college free across the country as long as students maintain a GPA of 2.5 and their family makes under $200,000 a year. CBC's president pledged his support on Monday. 

"Money is cited as the number one issue that keeps students from finishing degrees," CBC President Richard Cummins said. "Return on investment is clear in higher education. So it's a very rational case to build."

Free community college would change the community, according to David, bringing in more skilled labor that would stay in the Tri-Cities.

"I was working three jobs to go through University of Washington while going to school full time, it was difficult," Ruiz said. "And so, I see that in them. And I wish only better things for them. Easier ways for them. So they're not challenged by the same things."

The plan is still a long way away from becoming law. President Obama announced the program in January but nothing substantial has happened since then. 

CBC says it's not specifically Obama's plan they support. They also support a Republican initiative in which the student would pay as much as possible and the state or federal government would then pay the difference.