For years, the Republican Party has defended the individual responsibility of parents and state governments to promote educational opportunity for all Americans. According to the Republican Party Platform, which was last altered in 2012, “education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions.” In February, President Obama introduced a plan that would give free community college to any student who completes high school and maintains a 2.5 grade point average. However, this plan is simply unaffordable and will not be successful in the short or long term. Furthermore, a bipartisan policy initiative is needed to promote higher educational opportunities.

While 89% of Democrats side with President Obama’s free community college proposal (Huffington Post), only 39% of Republicans favor the program. There is no one size fits all solution to education, as it has become one of the most prominent issues amongst millennials. In order to increase access and affordability, a policy suitable to both parties would be a step in the right direction.

After collaboration with my colleague Mr. Guntham on the other side of the aisle, the following policy shall be proposed before Congress: The government would fund two years of community college and guarantee three years of employment in the field of their respective associate’s degree for three years. After working for three years in the field for which the degree is held, individuals are afforded the opportunity to continue working or move on to earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university (where unless scholarship is awarded, funding is on their own). If the student does not graduate in two years or fails to work in a field similar to the degree for three years, then any admittance to a public institution will be revoked and the individual would have to repay the costs of their community college tuition.  Conservatives should embrace this policy because it preaches individual and fiscal responsibility while investing in the future.

Let’s talk about the basics of this proposal. A student wants to go to community college to become a soldier and begins by taking general education courses. Once this is done, the student works in the field and then advances to a four-year university where skills previously learned can be used towards earning a Bachelor’s degree. This soldier is now able to go into the Army as an Officer instead of a Private thanks to higher education. Although some question whether or not this would create a higher-skilled workforce, the soldier would earn an extra $2,850 per month now due to education. This plan has the potential to create a higher skilled workforce and drive American ingenuity.

This plan is a home-run for two key reasons: it leaves power to the states for those who opt in and it invests more in the American workforce. Instead of sending jobs to China, now is the time to invest in a highly skilled American workforce. Education is one major step that can help accomplish this. Now is the time for educational reform to help the U.S. regain its global competitiveness.

Read what my colleague Nick Guntham wrote below: