President Obama's free community college proposal has at least one big supporter, in the form of an Ivy League college president who believes the initiative is necessary.
"Making college more accessible to more people is absolutely critical," says Dr. Amy Gutmann, who has led the University of Pennsylvania since 2004.
In an interview with CNBC's "On the Money," Gutmann called higher education "the engine of opportunity for our population since the mid-20th Century." Degrees beyond high school have "only gotten more and more essential to what makes for having the opportunity that has really defined the American dream for millions of people," she added.
President Obama is expected to unveil "America's College Promise" in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. According to the White House, the proposal would make two years of community college free for an estimated 9 million students, if all states participate.
Yet the plan, though free for participants, will come at a cost to taxpayers. Early estimates project the federal government's tab for the program will cost tens of billions of dollars, and critics have derided the program as yet another offering by a government that is already suffering from mission creep.
Calling higher education an "engine that needs to be stoked," Gutmann says a proposal like the President's is "one of many proposals that are needed to get this engine more vital than it has been in recent years."