FORBES: Six Reasons Why Obama’s Free Community College Is a Poor Investment

Career College Central Summary;

  • 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.
  • It is true that around State of the Union time the President usually makes pronouncements about higher education, and that, in the past, little has come of most of his proposals. Still, it is worth mentioning six reasons why this is a monumentally bad idea—and why he proposed it.
  • First, the federal system of government has worked well in our nation, with the central government doing some things like monetary policy and providing defense and homeland security, and, historically, the states handling other things, like providing highways and schools, albeit with some federal financial assistance. The diverse nature of U.S. higher education is one of its strengths –we have 50 different ways of providing postsecondary education, and the nation has benefited from having diverse approaches. New Hampshire and Massachusetts devote little public money to higher education, but have great private schools; Michigan and California more generously support public universities, and have several great ones. People migrate to the state whose public service provision fits their tastes.
  • Second, a significant portion of persons going to community colleges come from at least moderately affluent families, and subsidizing their education more than presently is a waste of resources. Truly low income students, for whom financial barriers to college access are real, already receive Pell Grants that typically cover virtually all of community college tuition. Related to that, the evidence is strong that students do better in college when they have “skin in the game,” that is, when they have to pay part of the cost. Thus, even controlling for other factors, students graduate in higher proportions from relatively more expensive private schools than public institutions.

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