Ten Quick Reasons ‘Free Community College’ Is A Rotten Idea

Ten Quick Reasons ‘Free Community College’ Is A Rotten Idea

President Obama: "Community colleges are so effective, we should shove every kid into one!" Those midterms clearly put him off the deep end.
Joy Pullmann
By

I have Hulk-like triggers that turn me not into a muscly angry green man, but into a crochety grandmother guarding her porch with a shotgun. Hearing President Obama fantasize about “free community college” definitely hit that trigger. Here are ten reasons he’s totally insane and should finally be laughed out of polite society instead of given deadpan headlines and discussion panels in all the major outlets.

1. This Is Stealing

It’s completely unfair to take money from people who worked for it to hand it to other people who didn’t. Full stop, no excuses. Every time some politician comes up with some new thing to “give” to people, I want to start earning all my money on the black market and hiding it under the mattress.

“This is for the kids!” they always say. Well, my money is for my kids. And the federal government’s been taking about a fifth of it every year. Not even God asks for a fifth of our income. How in the everloving hell is it right for me to have to take my kids to vaccination clinics instead of pediatricians because the latter charge too much for the family budget just so some 18-year-old somewhere who is perfectly capable of getting a job can instead stick her fat little fingers into the money I’ve worked my butt off to earn for my family?

It’s not!

2. No One Owes Anyone a College Education

I realize that parents nowadays allow their children to persist until adulthood in the belief that they should get all the nice stuff they want just because they whine for it, but that’s bad parenting and it’s bad public policy. Kids: Random people the government points a gun at to collect taxes don’t owe you anything. You owe society things. You’ve spent the last 18 years of your life soaking up your parents’ and grandparents’ and neighbors’ time and money in schooling, healthcare, transportation, physical maintenance, and hyper-attention. Now that you’re a legal adult, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to pay it forward, and it’s time for adults to start telling you that’s how you join the maturity club.

3. Turning Things Into Entitlements Makes Them Crappy and Expensive

Our country clearly didn’t learn this from ObamaCare, or Medicaid, or the G.I. Bill, or federal student “aid,” or school lunches, or younametheentitlement, or the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or younamethecommunists, but socializing something irresistibly drives down quality and drives up prices. Duh. Haven’t these people ever taken an economics class? Or read a history book?

Since they are so obviously uneducated, why are we letting these people have any say over education?

4. Four of 5 Attendees Don’t Graduate Community College

That’s right. In the six years after beginning to attend community college, only 21 percent of students graduate with a two-year degree. Not a really impressive track record that bears rewarding. So what we will really be paying for here is for community colleges to load up on students and income with little regard for whether those students benefit from, you know, a degree.

5. Grandma’s Eighth-Grade Education Could Kick Your Community College In the Teeth

College freshmen—and this includes those in four-year colleges and universities, so it’s far worse for existing community college-goers—on average read at a seventh grade level. Now take a look at this 1912 eighth-grade entrance exam for high school. Some parts are archaic, so just look at the grammar or geography sections. Think people who read at a seventh grade level can comprehend the test, much less pass it? Me, neither.

And let’s look at what “college educated” means nowadays: “a federal survey showed that the literacy of college-educated citizens declined between 1992 and 2003. Only a quarter were deemed proficient, defined as ‘using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential’. Almost a third of students these days do not take any courses that involve more than 40 pages of reading over an entire term.” It’s not just generic colleges, either. Seniors at Ivy League universities scored worse on a recent basic U.S. government and civics exam than freshmen at those same schools.

The point: People shouldn’t get a college degree to signify seventh-grade achievement. And maybe it’s time to improve our existing schooling before adding more layers to its flab.

6. How Is It Merciful to Trap All Young People in School Longer?

Tie this one in with the cruel push for separating children from their mommies younger (aka pre-“school”). If community college becomes the new high school, students who have better things to do will be penalized for not wasting another two years doing the same thing all their peers are. As Lloyd Bensen IV says, “If too many people easily obtain a college degree, then the value of that degree becomes equal what a high school degree had been for future employment purposes.” That’s another two years of young people’s lives they’re not earning income or job skills, setting them back in life that much further. We love retarding life!

7. Everybody Can Afford Community College Already

The White House estimates that the average cost of a year of community college is $3,800. Assume a summer job and school-year part-time job and continuing to live at mom and dad’s house. A 40-hour, minimum-wage job over 12 weeks of summer will earn a tax-free $3,480 (tax-free because no one earning this little pays taxes). A 15-hour-a-week, minimum-wage job over the year’s other 40 weeks will bring in $4,350. That doesn’t include any extra hours worked over other breaks such as Christmas break. So, bam. College covered. Plus plenty for gas, pizza, and beer. No debt necessary, and on an easily increased workload, too (I worked at least two jobs at a time during college at an institution that was far more academically demanding than the average community or four-year college, and my grades did not suffer; many of my peers did the same).

That’s only for people who have to pay sticker price. Almost nobody does. In fact, students from low-income families typically pay zero already.

8. The College Bubble Is Just About to Burst and Save Us

A rising number of young people are finding ways to get into jobs they enjoy that can support them without a forced trek through college. As Michelle Weise explains in the Wall Street Journal, Obama’s push comes at precisely the worst time if we care more about helping young people than we do inflating unimportant “college graduate” stats:

Ask Facebook Google and AT&T why they’re partnering with Udacity to build programs in Big Data and Data Science and Computer Science. Ask Infosys why it partnered with Wayne County Community College District in 2012 to build a Software Engineering Boot Camp in Detroit through which plumbers, unemployed auto workers and a casino waitress were able to get the skills to take advantage of opportunities at companies like Compuware, GalaxE.Solutions and Kimberly Group. Ask Dev Bootcamp and other coding bootcamps why a company like Adobe is recruiting talent directly from them.

The students emerging from these programs aren’t necessarily earning degrees, but they’re getting jobs. As reported in this newspaper, coding bootcamps, for instance, boast anywhere from 63% to 99% job attainment rates—stronger than the 57% placement rate of law-school graduates, according to the American Bar Association.

Today, many employers demand more and higher academic credentials because of their dissatisfaction with the quality of degree-holders. ‘Upcredentialing’ is the latest trend, even though most middle-skills jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. The call for more education compensates for the imprecise signaling power of a college degree.

9. The Economy Doesn’t Need This

Neal McCluskey points out that some of the jobs expected to grow the most in the next ten years demand no post-high school education or less than a two-year degree: “Of the 30 occupations that the U.S. Department of Labor projects to see the greatest total growth by 2022, only 10 typically need some sort of postsecondary education, and several of those require less than an associate’s degree. Most of the new jobs will require a high school diploma or less.”

10. Does Anyone Remember We’re Suffocating in Government Debt?

This last item, combined with the first, is actually the other thing that immediately jumps into my head any time some politician proposes another government program. PEOPLE. WE HAVE NEGATIVE DOLLARS. Severely negative dollars. We cannot afford all the government we have, let alone a huge additional pile-on.

Our national debt stands at $18.1 trillion and counting. That’s $56,500 for every single person living in this country. So my three children who have no capability to earn a cent (they’re 4, 3, and 1) owe the Chinese $169,500. Adding “free” community college will only further jeopardize their life prospects. Massive debt, not to mention the inability of Congress to pass a budget and cut monsters like Social Security and Medicare, which are driving this country into fiscal hell, is a huge damper on a national economy, and thus the life prospects of the people living in it. That’s me and you and our kids.

It is no help to young people to assume more public debt on their behalf and at decades of compounding interest to finance yet more entitlements to crush the economy they will enter. It’s mean. It’s time for politicians to stop “helping” us by spending money we don’t have for programs we don’t need. That includes college for all. Our nation needs drastic spending and program cuts and more pathways to career opportunities than a generic degree, not more fantastical spending binges with other people’s money.

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and author of the forthcoming "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," from Encounter Books.

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