NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: A Community-College Plan Doomed to Fail
Career College Central Summary:
The logic behind the “free” community-college program President Obama announced last week is understandable. A high-school education once put many well-paying jobs within reach of Americans. Today, post-high-school work is increasingly necessary. So President Obama has proposed that two years of community college be free for students in most programs, accompanied by more oversight and accountability from Washington.
The problems begin where they did with efforts to improve elementary and secondary education from Washington: Why is a locally provided good the concern of the federal government? And since when was America’s K–12 educational system, let alone the federal government’s attempts to improve it, a model anyone was eager to emulate?
Tuition at community colleges for poor students is already low or nonexistent, making the president’s plan more a transfer program to state governments and middle-class consumers than anything else. A universal free approach to community college would replace a great deal of need-based aid, which would have the merit of eliminating the implicit tax such aid creates for the working poor. And the cost of attending community college does go far beyond tuition — it’s expensive to reduce or forgo work.
But the main problem at community colleges is not cost, or work disincentives, but the appallingly low rates at which their students finish with a useful credential. President Obama’s plan is not going to fix this.
The plan, like decades of federal policy for elementary and secondary schools, proposes to link funding to a push for accountability and best practices at community colleges. Yet we expect this to work as well as it has in the past: It’s no better an idea to try to run Bunker Hill Community College from Washington than it was to try to run Peoria High the same way.
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NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
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