Community colleges, currently run by individual states, are an affordable option for many students. By offering part-time and full-time options, they allow students to work and often save money while attending. Students then graduate with associate’s degrees, which open doors to many additional jobs. Students can often avoid incurring debt while attending community college.
Tennessee became the first state to offer free community college, a prototype that President Obama is now advocating that the federal government fund a similar program for the entire country. He officially presented the idea in his 2015 State of the Union address.
“Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible,” Obama said. “I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”
Despite Obama’s attempt to make the project bipartisan, Republican leaders haven’t bought it. Bob Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee, said “Oh no, no, no, no, no,” when asked if he would like to see the program become national law. He encouraged states to use the idea but discouraged creating “a whole new bureaucratic federal program.”
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz called the $60 billion plan a “significant investment.”
“But [the program is] one the president believes is worthwhile because we need to make sure that America’s young people are getting the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy,” Schultz said.
The majority of responses to this article indicated quite different feelings.
One poster said, “The GIs EARNED their [education money]!” Someone else pointed out that the GIs did pay; the government matched the money the veterans were already putting into their education.
Another poster chimed in, “Why stop there? I propose free daycare from age six weeks and on, free housing for life, free healthcare for all with no deductibles, a voucher for $25 per person per week for a free restaurant visit, a free car with free gasoline, or a free public transit pass (take your pick), free food, a $500 voucher per person per year to be used for a free vacation, free assisted living/nursing home, and top it off with a free funeral. That is true compassion. Obama has not gone far enough.”
“If this stupid plan is enacted this is what will happen: If you give away something it becomes less valuable,” another poster added. “Kids will just take the education for granted and high school will become, in effect, a six year program.”
“The primary goal of community college as a second chance for kids to get prepared for a 4 year degree or learn a vocation will be destroyed as they end up spending more resources on kids who still don’t know what to do with their [lives] and are just wasting time taking up space in classrooms. Are people really this stupid in the USA nowadays?”
A community college professor said, “As a community college adjunct instructor, most of my student[s] already go to school for free. The pell grant covers tuition, books and supplies for most poor kids. Middle class kids are there not because it is cheap alternative to the university, it is, but because they were not accepted to the university. This proposal is just throwing more money at a problem that does not exist…”
Forbes Magazine published an article criticizing the “monumentally bad idea:”
“Let’s get this straight. First, we are a nation with an $18 trillion debt that, five years into a business cycle upturn, that still cannot come close to balancing the federal budget despite Obama-induced tax increases. Second, we have a very significant problem of overinvestment in higher education that manifests itself in a large proportion (one-third to one-half) of recent college graduates taking jobs that usually go to high school graduates –they are ‘underemployed,’ many of them still living with their parents and dependent on parental financial support. Third, and related to that, for every ten students that enter community college, only three graduate within three years. Fourth, despite the first three points, President Obama wants to encourage increased community college attendance by making it costless to the consumer.”
The article goes on to discuss six reasons Obama’s plan is a bad idea:
- Under our federal system of government, the states should be the ones in charge of public education.
- Many of the current community college students can either afford to pay for their education or are receiving substantial assistance already. Additionally, research shows that students who must pay for their education value it more.
- The job market for associate’s degrees is not as good as it once was; many students would do better getting specialized training for a particular job of interest.
- The Obama administration now wants American taxpayers to fund two years of college, but has “virtually declared war” on for-profit colleges, which may provide good results for students.
- “The U.S. government’s finances are somewhat precarious. We should be seeking ways to shrink those liabilities…. The Obama proposal worsens an already serious fiscal problem.”
- Past U.S. government initiatives aimed at helping students pay for college have contributed to the rapidly increasing costs of higher education.
The article’s conclusion suggests that Obama is making a last-ditch effort to give Democrats more freebies and attempt to characterize Republicans as “insensitive, affluent, selfish persons uninterested in the disadvantaged….The Obama idea is probably dead on arrival in the Republican controlled Congress.”