Had we taken it seriously we would have been stunned by the new White House proposal that taxpayers shell out $60 billion to pay for the first two years of college. This sort of meaningless gibberish is standard political fare before the State of the Union, so the shock over suggesting a massive new federal giveaway was blunted by knowing it is never going to happen. That doesn’t mean we aren’t teaching poor students an unfortunate lesson about being needy that Obama is fighting tooth and nail to keep them from learning.
Tell the truth: this is about poor students
Poor students are not the focal point of Obama’s proposal, though a community college giveaway is an obvious ploy to court the not so well-to-do. Two free years of college that Congress will strike down seems to be the best that Obama’s hope and change can offer poor students. Whether this liberal scam lives or dies, the mere suggestion that college should be free teaches poor students a bad lesson about how things work. Not having money doesn’t mandate that you should be handed more.
Liberal members of Congress have never been shy about enforcing their economic double standard. Their kids don’t go to community college. They don’t go to school half-time.1 They don’t enroll in technical training programs. Poor students do these things. If Obama were to have his way they would be doing it a whole lot more, but to what end? Does someone concerned about the fate of lower income Americans want to stigmatize poor students by placing a two-year free ride on their record?
Educational success rates are up, not down
The Obama administration’s education harangues are all about a public school system failing because failure serves the priorities of politicians, unions, and Democratic public spending (see: Schools Matter More Than Your Kids: Here’s Proof). Surprisingly, despite incessant political demands to spend more on schools because our students are falling behind other countries, educational attainment numbers have improved:
Between 1990 and 2013, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased. The percentage who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased from 86 to 90 percent, with most of the change (3 percentage points) occurring between 2003 and 2013. The percentage who had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 23 to 34 percent.2
Dropout rates are down:
The status dropout rate decreased from 12 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2012, with most of the decline occurring since 2000. The number of years of school that high school dropouts completed increased from 1990 to 2012. The percentage of dropouts with less than 9 years of schooling accounted for 18 percent of status dropouts in 2012, compared with 29 percent in 1990.3
Who are the big losers?
Between 1990 and 2013, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 94 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 90 percent), and Hispanics (from 58 to 76 percent).4
Admittedly, bachelor’s degree numbers aren’t so rosy, with 40 percent of white 25-29 year olds getting their four-year degree, 20 percent of blacks, and 16 percent of Hispanics.5 Two years of free community college is not going to fix this. As college admittance becomes more competitive, the 2.5 GPA required for a free ride will not open the doors to the nation’s better four-year degree schools. That’s where hard work, not handouts, comes in.
America’s College Promise is a false lesson
Obama is asking taxpayers to pay for free college because poor students can’t afford it. Is America’s College Promise proposal really that simple?
When the president talks about making community college free to responsible students, we know what “responsible” means. It means the same thing as “accountable” when he applies that term to illegal immigrants. It means a handout. When he talks about making college free for everyone who is “willing to work for it” while dangling a 2.5 GPA requirement, he is teaching the lesson that life in America requires no effort. Unfortunately, students who believe him will find out too late that this country does not reward C-level effort.
Unless big government takes over all aspects of higher education (see: Career Colleges Regulated by Federal Double Standard), the last two years of a four-year degree will not happen for community college students doomed to second-class status. They will learn too late that things of value are not entitlements and don’t come free just because a politician says they should. Poor students have already heard too much from this president about how the deck is stacked against them because of everything from immigration status to the color of their skin. Obama has added to his pack of lies about what America should promise by the mere suggestion that college should be free. For the president, this will just be another part of his legacy unfulfilled because Republicans stood in his way. For poor students, it will be another false lesson about the fundamental unfairness of their country.
Information on the president’s tuition-free community college plan can be found here: FACT SHEET – White House Unveils America’s College Promise Proposal: Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students.