Thursday, January 8, 2015

Free Community College?

So President Obama's latest push is to offer Free Community College.  For those outside of the United States community college is primarily serves two purposes.  The first is to adequately train specialized skills for those entering the work force.  Such programs can include nursing, or other medical fields, mechanics, and a few even offer truck driving schools.  Some of these programs, can have waiting lists of up to a year or more.  The reason is community college is so much cheaper than training at a private vocational school.  The second purpose of the community college is to get an associates degree or other courses required by a four year school at a greatly reduced cost.

While free education works for the most part K-12 it would not work in our community colleges and I will explain why.  The reason is simple, capacity.  Community colleges are a place for those who are wanting to make their lives better.  Unlike universities almost anyone can afford to go to community college.  In addition, almost everyone qualifies for the Pell Grant which covers almost all of tuition costs for community college.  

To make ends meet, people can live at home with their parents if available, work a second job, or do what I did and take advantage of the student loan program.  Unlike high school which has to take everyone who shows up, community college was different.  First, there were no stoned kids roaming the halls.  Nobody was coasting just to get by.  Everyone was on a mission, many people were like me and simply wanted a quick education and entry into a higher paying job.

Now say what you want about our current Student Loan program.  I have a few opinions on it.  It is a very bad idea to saddle yourself with thousands and thousands of dollars of debt just to get a degree.  There is something to be said for the libertarian view for getting the government out of it and let competition bring prices back down.  That being said, in its current form community college is very affordable.  Making it free is just a bad idea.

I am aware of free universities that do work in socialist economies, however we are not a socialist economy, at least not yet.  America became the great superpower it is through capitalism.  History buffs will know we tried communism in this country with the landing of the Mayflower and it failed.  Private enterprise has been the driving force of our economy ever since.  

Community College should be reserved for those that want it.  Making it free will simply open up the doors to everyone who graduates high school.  Waiting lists will be longer and drop out rates will go up.  The reason is unlike high school, community college is far more strict for those who don't buckle down and study. So why should waiting lists for the best programs increase when many more will simply flunk or drop out?

There are a few things that the federal government does right.  Education has never been one of them.  Keep community colleges local and free of the trappings that come with more federal money.  Don't hurt the hard working people trying to improve their life by making them wait behind those who just want a free ride.

Finally, can we at least get our federal budget under control before we give away more freebees?  

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