Cost of Free Community College is Up by Half Already

Like Obamacare, Free Community College is already experiencing a spike in price. What could possibly be the reason?

This headline at’s blog post caught my eye: “‘Free’ Community College Already Costs 50 Percent More than Originally Estimated.”

This week a couple of legislators and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the draft legislation of the proposed “free community college” plan Barack Obama introduced in January. Probably the most important detail is that the federal government itself now estimates the cost of providing a “free” community college education jumping from $60 billion to $90 billion.

How interesting.

As we have noted more than once Obamacare rates are also skyrocketing. If only there was some common feature that explained the problem in both these areas that we could fix in order to get prices to trend downwards instead of upwards. But what could they have in common?


I am sure you know what they have in common. Both areas of the economy are targeted for government interference. Proponents would claim the government is “helping.” In a way, that is true. The question is: Who is getting the help? Subsidized student loans, for example, allow colleges and universities to substantially increase tuition every year. Textbook publishers get to do the same.

What we need to do, if we want to see downward pressure on the prices in the healthcare field and in college tuition rates is to get rid of all the “help.” If colleges will only survive by getting customers who are able to pay, they will have to lower prices and other costs. They will not be able to count on the Federal government transferring money or credit to these potential students so that more of that extra money is passed on to them.

There are many other possible problems with the “free college” plan:

The legislation does restrict states to offering free tuition to “first-time” students only, thus trying to avoid dealing with students dropping out and dropping back in later, which, frankly, is one of the actual beneficial features of community college if you’re poor. It requires students to attend school at least half-time, keep their grades up, and the gravy train cuts off after three years, regardless of whether the student has completed his or her education. Note, though, that if a state ends up with leftover money from this program, they can spend it in a number of different listed ways, including expanding who qualifies for money.

I have said before that this program is a subsidy for colleges and more specifically college administrators, and nothing in the draft legislation convinces me otherwise. The students will actually never see a cent of this money. It will all be handled with waivers. It is not a loan. If the student drops out or flunks out in a year, the money is lost (to the taxpayers, not to the college the money had been distributed to). This incentivizes colleges keeping students on board and giving them good grades, even if they aren’t learning anything or are ultimately incapable of handling college-level material.

Just like in the case of Obamacare, the government is taking something the government has already messed up and “fixing it” by making it much worse.