WORLD MAG: Critics: Free community college won’t solve U.S. education problem

Career College Central Summary:

  • The White House Facebook post detailing the proposal was the most successful ever, according to White House press secretary Eric Schultz. But many question the success of the proposal itself.
  • “The proposal is aimed squarely at stopping state divestment from public colleges, which is crucial to making college more affordable,” the Institute for College Access & Success said in a statement. “Still, making community college tuition free for all students regardless of their income neither focuses resources on the students who need aid the most, nor addresses the bulk of the costs of attending community college.” 
  • According to the College Board, tuition makes up less than 20 percent of a community college student’s total expenses. During the 2010-11 school year, the estimated average tuition and fees for a full-time community college student totaled $2,713. But combined with off-campus room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses, the total estimated budget came close to $15,000.  
  • And tuition often is already covered. According to the College Board, at public, two-year colleges, average full-time independent students and dependent students from low-income families “received enough grant aid from all sources combined to cover tuition and fees as well as a portion of living and other expenses.”
  • Some critics of the president’s proposal also fear free community college will reduce innovation and stifle the free market in higher education. “After all, it’s hard to compete with free,” wrote Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, in a Friday Forbes article. “This will crowd out the kinds of innovative models that have emerged from nonprofit and for-profit organizations.”
  • Jarrett Carter, founding editor of HBCU Digest, also expressed concern over the proposal’s possible effect on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 
  • “Those tuition-dependent black colleges which don’t offer attractive degree programs in applied sciences, or education, or other job-ready industries, will suffer greatly if the federal government makes it easier and financially beneficial to join the community college-state college pipeline,” wrote Carter in an HBCU Digest commentary. “Ultimately, the discussion on free college education is not one about access for all, but seemingly, it is an effort by the Obama administration to find a secluded landing spot for the nation’s poor and minority students.”
  • The president’s budget is scheduled for release in a few weeks and will contain details on how the government would pay for the program. But Schultz, the president’s press secretary, said the federal government’s 75 percent share of the cost would be about $60 billion over 10 years: “That is a significant investment.”

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