Obama’s Oprah Moment
President Obama’s Community College Proposal
By Bernard Healy-Garcia
President Obama must have been feeling like his fellow Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey, because on January 8, he announced his plans to make a push for education reform. In his State of the Union address, Obama advocated for free community college for “those who work hard.” The idea sounds great, but what is the cost?
The purpose for this proposal is to make the American workforce more competitive in the global market to be able to compete with other nations for skilled labor. But there are strong critics of this higher-education reform. One is Speaker John Boehner, who in a blog post, used Taylor Swift GIF’s to suggest that the plan cannot work because of its cost to taxpayers. As the blog post expresses “60 billion dollars is a lot of money…you just can’t ‘shake it off.’”
According to the plan, only full time community college students who have attained a 2.5 grade point average are eligible for the benefits. The proposal calls for the Federal government to cover 75% of the cost while the state government covers the other 25% of the cost. With an average cost of community colleges tuition of $3,800, and with 3.3 million full time students enrolled, it’s quite a hefty price tag. With 3 million graduating high school students and with 62% intending on going to higher education after high school, it is very difficult to accommodate everyone. With the Federal government already kicking in 9 billion dollars a year and with the state government kicking in over 16 billion dollars a year, the question arises whether it is feasible to add an additional 6 billion dollars, bringing the total being more than 15 billion dollars for the next 10 years.
Another problem with this proposal is the GPA requirement. When the national average GPA is 3.1 for graduating high school females and 2.9 for males, the government should demand a higher GPA for those who want the full benefits. It should also be included in the requirements that all those who do want to transfer to a four-year institution, should be required to obtain an associate’s degree or a certification before they can transfer. This would incentivize the students to not only see community college as simply a stepping stone to a four-year university, but it would also make them more attractive and more competitive in the workforce.
Without stricter rules and requirements in place, the proposal will not go through. With a higher GPA and a requirement to complete a certification or associate’s degree, it would not only help students who do not have the privilege of attending a traditional four-year university, but also can give an opportunity for those who can transfer to a four-year education without encroaching the students who only wish to complete a 2-year program. It would balance the playing field by not having people take advantage of the free education to continue to a four-year program, and it also incentivizes the students to achieve more. Educating the public isn’t just good for the economy or for society; it is also a very expensive investment. If there is to be an investment of 60 billion dollars by the taxpayers, shouldn’t the American taxpayer expect results to be met?