The free community college plan introduced by President Obama was not the worst proposal he has made this year, but it’s bad enough, for a variety of reasons. It has already been well-covered by many, but I will mention a few that might have been missed:
* In Texas, 51% of high school graduates must take remedial courses when entering a community college and for urban areas, this reaches over 60%, so free tuition for these students is a big additional waste of money.
* Community college tuition is relatively modest already, averaging about $3,000 annually, and low income students already have access to Pell Grants of up to $5,730 from a program which has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. So where is the unmet need?
* As for outcomes, according to the U. S. Department of Education, less than 20% of students who begin community college annually complete their two-year associate’s degree work within three years. Is making it free going to increase the incentive for these students to complete their degree?
* The best point was made by Michelle Weise of the Clayton Christensen Institute, who believes, and I agree, that we should be focusing more closely on various innovative alternative credentials, competency-based programs, and industry certifications that validate what a student knows and the skills they can demonstrate.
Meanwhile, this administration is busy harassing the for-profit education industry that is pushing for accountability for meaningful outcomes in postsecondary education. This entire exercise has all the attributes of a new entitlement without any market validation designed to have one more aspect of our life under the tutelage of “cradle to grave” management by the federal leviathan.