THE STREET: Why President Obama’s Free Community-College Plan Is a Bad Idea

Career College Central Summary:

  • President Obama can't resist the temptation to gin up new entitlements that chase votes but make problems worse. Free tuition at community colleges would be no exception.
  • The president proposes to offer states 75% in matching federal money to refund tuition. Community colleges would have to offer programs that permit students to either transfer to four-year colleges with half the credits needed for a bachelor's degree or award a vocational certificate in demand by employers. Students would have to maintain a C average.
  • That would simply pour money onto failing diploma mills. The three-year graduation rate at public two-year institutions is 21%, which is about one-third the rate for two-year nonprofit and for-profit schools, and much less than the 59% six-year graduation rate at four-year institutions.
  • Many community colleges do provide good job training in areas such as nursing, information technology and security. However, too many have been starved for funds as states have devoted more resources to K-12 education and entitlements such as Medicaid. And community colleges are staffed by bureaucrats, who too often are not particularly adroit at identifying private-sector needs and fashioning classrooms to jobs programs.
  • Too many students are ushered into programs that are less expensive to staff and that are aimed at transferring students into four-year colleges. The standards are often not high enough.
  • Many state universities are required to honor credits awarded at community colleges when the course numbers match up, but many transfer students are simply not competitive. Colleges either must create special programs to accommodate them or professors must look the other way and award passing grades for quite marginal work, and less.
  • Top students at universities such as mine — as measured by graduate-school entrance tests and performance — -are as well educated as most Ivy League students, but processing too many community-college transfers depreciates the value of our diplomas.

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