President Obama’s plan to make two free years of community college available for everybody may sound like a good idea but it isn’t.
A better idea might be to help bring down the cost of college by pouring less federal largesse into education, which only encourages colleges to raise their tuitions, knowing that check-writing Uncle Sam is standing in the wings.
But that is not how President Obama thinks and so hence his massive plan (if plan isn’t too grandiose a word for something that doesn’t even have an estimated price tag affixed yet) to “make community college free for responsible students for 2 years.”
The definition of a college-ready, "responsible student,” as set forth in Politico’s report on the president’s plan, is not stringent:
The president’s proposal would make two years of community college free for students of any age with a C+ average who attend school at least half-time and who are making “steady progress” toward their degree.
I question the wisdom of further federal expenditures to make sure C students can go to college free. That C doesn’t indicate a high appreciation or aptitude for further study, but, if you, Ms. C, want to pursue further education, maybe you’d gain a sense of the value of such an endeavor by getting jobs to pay for it? There are also good and lucrative jobs that don’t require a college degree.
There are also less than stringent requirements for communtiy colleges that would participate:
To be eligible, community colleges would have to offer academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities or training programs with high graduation rates that lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt “promising and evidence-based institutional reforms” to improve student outcomes.
I like that “high graduation rate.” Is that a way of saying “easy courses that get our numbers up but don’t require the students to actually buckle down and work?”
While the President isn’t able to tell us how much the plan will cost us, he does dish out some numbers:
If all 50 states choose to implement the President's new community college proposal, it could:
- Save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average
- Benefit roughly 9 million students each year
Under President Obama's new proposal, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor's degree, or earn the technical skills needed in the workforce — all at no cost to them.
But there will be a cost to someone—the taxpayer. And what about that number that 9 million students will benefit—undoubtedly, many of these beneficiaries will be those progress-making C students, who might do well going directly into jobs. Contrary to what the New Class believes, there is nothing demeaning about getting aJ-O-B that doesn’t require a college degree. We should entertain the heresy that not everybody benefits from two years of free community college.
But there is one thing in the president’s plan that does evoke a hear! hear! from me:
In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades' worth of student debt.
Students who have the ambition and aptitude to go to college should be able to get the knowledge and skills they need without going into decades’ worth of student debt. But this will happen only if the federal government steps back from the arena of educational funding and college tuition is forced to be set in a market-oriented environment.