Obama announces free higher education: not free, not education

Obama announces free higher education: not free, not education

The federal government has no such power under the Constitution; but that doesn't stop Obama


INDIANAPOLIS,  January 15, 2015 – President Obama’s never-ending campaign has a new plank: “free” community college, for those who “work at it.” The student must “make steady progress” and maintain a C+ average, to qualify for the taxpayers’ subsidy.

There are so many things wrong with this idea that it’s difficult to even touch on them in one column.

The federal government has no such power under the Constitution. But let’s put that aside, since the Constitution is no longer in effect in D.C. Let’s look at some other problems this illuminates.

Prospective students may see anything that’s “free” as a better deal than something they need to pay for, and the $3-4000 yearly tuition is therefore attractive to them. Never mind that $3000, collected by the federal government and funneled through its vast bureaucracy, with each layer – reporting, collection, audit, investigation, litigation, and incarceration (not to mention all the routine costs of salaries in the government pipeline) can easily cost the taxpayer $30,000. If this program is funded with debt rather than additional taxes, add the interest on top.

Since Obama’s plan requires federal funds to cover only two-thirds of the program, the states (which must balance their budgets) will be forced to raise taxes or de-fund essential services. This is not just fiscal bullying; it further erodes the very structure of our federal republic.

Community colleges, always (until this program) conscious that they must keep costs low, will now realize that they can raise their fees by the amount of the subsidy, which will itself surely rise, as community colleges try to beat the system. Community college will thus become a worse deal for those students who will have to pay more. That, in turn, will edge out all but the subsidized students.

Because subsidized students will soon become the bulk of the community college student population, the government will have great leverage in the curricula of the colleges, turning them into propaganda schools and delaying the students’ curiosity and choices of their own thoughts for another two years.

Upstream in the educational timeline, high schools, knowing that students will get another two years of education from institutions that will have to admit them, will slack off even more. A high school diploma will guarantee even fewer skills than is the case today, cheapening those diplomas and GEDs for those who hold them.

When something is “free,” its value to the recipient is diminished. This is particularly devastating to those who have worked for their Associates degrees – it will diminish their accomplishments. This will force seekers of “serious” education to earn four-year degrees, and, by diminishing the ranks there of underclassmen, increase the costs and prices of the Bachelor’s degree – and put upward pressure on the costs of advanced degrees, as well.

Before long, as “everyone” gets degrees, this will create an even higher barrier to job entry among those who simply don’t have the time to attend college, swelling the ranks of the chronically unemployable.

Maintaining a C+ average at a community college is no accomplishment. I have taught in community college, and the administration already frowns upon any teacher who would give a grade below a C, for any reason other than regular non-attendance.

There’s a dirty little secret within the community college industry: you don’t make any money if you lose students. Facing a loss of money below a C+, you can bet these “colleges” will continue selling parchment to all comers.

And C is not an “average” grade. In Education classes, USA Today reported that one study found that 71% of the grades were A; the average college GPA for all students in 2013 was 3.11, a B+. So, to maintain a C+ average (which is nominally above average) a student must perform at a level significantly below average.

A large portion of community college tuition is already paid by the students’ employers; having the government pick up the tuition costs for these students is merely another corporate subsidy, and will diminish the local businesses’ input to the colleges, putting another barrier between education and practical skills needed in the workplace, making the education less relevant to the job-seeker and less-useful for the employer.

This program is supposed to enhance job prospecting, but there is no requirement that the course of study have any correlation to the job market’s needs. Pre-Columbian American History is interesting and politically correct and all, but it is irrelevant as far as building job skills.

In sum, “free community college” will raise the cost of community college (and four-year colleges); it will push those who “don’t test well” or who must begin working right after high school farther from the mainstream; it will lower the standards and value of existing and future Associates degrees; it will give greater control of higher education to the Department of Education [to those who think I’m railing against Obama’s control of young minds, it would give the same control to a future Bush or Romney administration – this isn’t partisan!]; it will put additional budgetary pressure on the States; it will give the federal government even more control over our students’ minds and delay their opportunity to start thinking independently; it will raise prices at four-year colleges and universities, forcing greater debt on those students and further dividing America by economic class; high schools will be able to further lower their standards.

Bottom line: the benefits all accrue to the federal behemoth. Students and taxpayers are simply being used. The president’s idea is just another way to increase government’s power by pandering to stupid and selfish people.

But don’t blame Obama. He’s just another power-hungry politician, going where the votes are, as a shark isn’t “bad” for seeking its prey. Once the Constitution is dead, there is no limit on democracy (otherwise known as mob rule) or the destruction it can wreak on our nation. Which, without the Constitution, is no longer our nation, anyway.

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