Quick-Takes: Free Community College

President Obama recently announced his intentions to implement a program that would make community college free for two years for qualified American students. 

Investing in Community Colleges is Investing in America’s Future 

Although the Republican-dominated Congress usually frowns upon spending funds, President Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college free is something that is worth the money. While the stipulations of this program have not been made entirely clear, the president has made it clear that students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and make progress toward completion of a degree or program. This will not be another wasteful form of spending by the government but, rather, a wise investment in America’s future.

This new proposal will prove to be a good step toward minimizing the social disparity that exists in education. The New York Times reports that in Tennessee — where Obama adopted this idea from — there is a greater number of African-American and Latino applicants that are attending college. This proposal would allow these underrepresented students elsewhere to work toward a degree and offer much-needed diversity in higher education. And there is nothing wrong with giving all students a chance at that.

Additionally, many students who attend college also work part or full-time to cover the exorbitant price of tuition, books, transportation — the list goes on and on. This proposition would reduce the stress of burnt-out college students who have a million other things on their plate. Besides, it’s not as if Obama is saying, “Here, let me pay for all your other bills too.” Education is a right, and this idea emphasizes that ideal and puts it into practice. Perhaps the UC Board of Regents could take a hint.

— Rosina Garcia  Copy Editor 

Oversight of Community Colleges Should Be Left to Individual States

President Obama’s plan to make the first two years of community college free is a good idea, but there’s no need for this to be done at the federal level. Instead, it should be up to the individual states to decide if their budgets will allow this, as seen in Tennessee’s case last year.

The biggest problem with the president’s plan is the budget. Federal funding would have to pick up three-quarters of the tab, and with the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that the 2014 deficit is $483 billion, there’s no room for more spending.

Furthermore, the remainder of the tab will go to the states. California cannot afford this, and in fact, many states would feel miffed over federal intrusion into their already stressed budgets. The Center for American Progress reported that public college funding fell by 5 percent in 26 states from 2008 to 2012, an obvious response to the Great Recession. All states, excluding oil-booming North Dakota, have spent less per student on higher education than before the financial crisis, according to Illinois State University’s “Grapevine” project. California, despite raising taxes and making post-recession cuts in higher education, still experienced the second highest deficits in 2010, as studied by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While a recovery is underway, the economic fundamentals are too fragile for the federal government to be blowing deficits on guns and butter like the previous decade. On the state level, the scars of the recession haven’t healed yet, but when they do, that will be the logical time for each state to fund education at its discretion.

— Jordan Utley-Thomson Staff Writer  

Program Will Adversely Affect Job Market and American Spending Power

With his new measure to make two years of community college free for everyone, President Obama is taking a step in the wrong direction. The unemployment rate of people with only a high school degree is close to the national average: 7.5 versus 6.1 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Closing this small gap will not inherently change the face of the American economy and will harm students more than it will help.

On Friday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz announced the plan would cost an already indebted federal government roughly $60 billion over 10 years. But that money would come at least partly from taxes. Even though students will not have to pay for community college while they attend, they will still have effectively paid for it with taxes.

The program will also likely deplete the market for jobs that do not require higher education, such as the service industry. With everyone getting the same education, access to “regular jobs” will have even more competition, and with the current trajectory, soon master’s degrees or higher will be regarded as the only acceptable level of collegiate education. Many students need to make money straight out of high school, and even though Obama’s plan offers a supposedly brighter future, it hinders these peoples’ earning power in the meantime to provide for things like food and housing. In time, Obama’s good intentions will backfire on the American economy, with his plan hurting the very people it was meant to help.

— Marcus Thuillier Staff Writer  

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