Jan. 13, 2015

The Next Big Lie: ‘Free’ Community College

As with every other federal program, this isn’t free at all.

The community organizer in chief has a plan to offer “free” community college. It’s a terrible idea and one that, as with every other federal program, isn’t free at all.

While the idea of “free” higher education may sound appealing to high school graduates, taxpayers will be on the hook for an almost surely underestimated $60 billion over 10 years. According to The Hill, “[T]he federal government would pay three quarters of tuition for students enrolled at least half-time who maintain a 2.5 GPA. States would be required to chip in the remainder of the cost – an additional $20 billion over the next 10 years. Full-time students would save an average of $3,800 per year.”

Barack Obama, while speaking lecturing at a community college in Knoxville, Tennessee – which is funded by the state’s lottery – tried to frame the issue as being fundamentally American and urged both parties to come together. He quipped, “If a state with Republican leadership is doing this, and a city with Democratic leadership is doing it, how about we all do it?” A better question is that if a state or a city is doing this, and it’s working (a debatable assertion), then why does this president want to ruin it by nationalizing it?

Has the former constitutional professor never heard of federalism?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s latest entitlement proposal “comes under the pretext of improving America’s workforce.” Given the federal government’s horrible track record of involvement in K-12 education, will two more years of free taxpayer-funded education really improve the workforce? And why not free four-year degrees from prestigious universities? Moreover, how would the requirement for a minimum grade point average of 2.5 lead to an improved workforce? Last we checked, that GPA wasn’t exactly stellar. Perhaps he means to supply more workers, but in his stagnant economy jobs still aren’t plentiful.

The Obama proposal will require community colleges to meet certain standards. The Journal notes, “To be eligible, community colleges would have to offer academic credits that transfer to four-year colleges or occupational programs that produce high graduation rates and degrees in demand by employers.” Further, colleges will also be required to “adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes,” such as paying for books and transit costs.

On the surface, the eligibility requirements for both student and school may look like sound policy. But what happens if a student or community college becomes ineligible? As National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke asserts, “Does anybody believe for a single second that the federal government would kick anybody off of this program?”

Given that the federal government in general has a dismal record of enforcing rules, and with this president specifically refusing to uphold existing laws (immigration, Defense of Marriage Act, etc.) or changing laws when he sees fit (ObamaCare, etc.), are we to believe that this proposal will be any different? Besides, what heartless and uncaring soul would dare deny anyone the opportunity to go to college?

Rest assured this idea of “free” community college will be a partisan issue as Obama and his educrats paint the GOP as being the party of oppression. But Obama’s proposal runs contrary to the principles of Liberty.

He firmly believes that taxing some Americans to redistribute that wealth to other Americans will benefit the entire nation. And he argues that giving everyone the equal opportunity to go to community college will result in an equal outcome. All for an issue on which the Constitution grants no authority to the federal government.

When higher education is paid for by the individual, or help from family, there is an inherent value placed on getting that education. Yes, it can be expensive. But with the numerous avenues for financial aid, it is very feasible for most Americans who want to go to college to do so.

This proposal needs to be left in the hands of each sovereign state, not dictated by an overreaching federal government. No doubt it’s just part of Obama’s agenda to continue fundamentally transforming the nation, and Congress would be wise to not even consider it.

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