TRIBTALK: Obama’s college plan may be Texas’ least bad option

Career College Central Summary:

  • In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama detailed "a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college–to zero." Under his plan, community college tuition would be waived for students who maintain a C+ average and receive credits that can be transferred to a four-year college or are earned in an occupational training program.
  • While the plan's $60 billion price tag dooms it before a Republican-controlled Congress, critics have also attacked the value of the education that community colleges provide. Citing data showing that less than 50 percent of students nationally graduate in six years and that even fewer transfer to four-year colleges, critics say community colleges aren't accomplishing their basic mission of teaching students.
  • Community colleges' role is obviously important. But a more thoughtful and pragmatic question is: Would high school graduates be better off under the new plan, or with the status quo? This plan might just be the least bad alternative.
  • Postsecondary training is no longer a luxury, and a college education has now become a ticket to the middle class. A recent Texas Workforce Commission report found that most high-growth, high-wage occupations in Texas will require either a college degree or some type of postsecondary education.
  • Texas has sought to increase both the number of college graduates in the state and the number of high school students who graduate prepared to attend college or enter the workforce. For the most part, Texas has achieved those goals and the goals set forward by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's "Closing the Gaps by 2015" plan.

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