Obama’s Free College Comes with Strings

As you probably know, President Barack Obama is claiming that the government will give students free college.

According to CNS News: “Obama proposes publicly funded community colleges for all.”

President Barack Obama on Friday proposed to bring the cost of two years of community college “down to zero” for all Americans, an ambitious nationwide plan based on a popular Tennessee program signed into law by that state’s Republican governor.

However, the idea and its $60 billion federal price tag over 10 years would have to make the grade with a Republican Congress that is showing little appetite for big new spending programs. Obama, who plans to push the issue in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, argued that providing educational opportunity and creating a more skilled U.S. workforce shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

If this scheme could actually work, it would be an obvious attempt to provide stimulus to colleges.

The real question here is why is the President issuing such rhetorical nonsense. McClatchyDC has published “6 reasons the math on Obama’s college plan doesn’t add up.” It seems obvious to me that President Obama has to know his plan is unworkable. The McClatchy reasons include the obvious ones like the expense and the national debt. (If Obama can produce $60 billion then why not scrap the idea of a gas price hike and put the money into “the nation’s crumbling infrastructure”?)

albert einstein education

But there are many other issues that have nothing to do with the expense, or the Republican Congress. One is that the plan calls for the states to pick up twenty-five percent of the price. But states have been cutting funding to education. They can’t afford it. Even if only paying a quarter of the ultimate price, that could be a lot of money if many people decide to take advantage of the offer. Obama’s plan also comes with regulations so that states that participate in the program are not permitted to pay for their portion by cutting any other area of education. Will the states even be willing to participate under such restrictions?

Notice that all this is done not for poor students who can’t afford college but for everyone. So, while I think it is debatable that government should have anything to do with financing anyone’s education, this plan is making poor taxpayers pay for the educations of richer people who could pay their own way. It is a regressive policy.

McClatchy also points out that students who qualify for four-year schools will be tempted to first attend community college. State colleges are not going to appreciate losing this revenue.

So why is the President beating the drum for a scheme that no state would really appreciate? Is there something else he is doing or about to do from which he wants to distract us?