The Corner

Obama’s Community College Plan Is a Recipe for Corruption

Newsweek reports:

President Barack Obama wants to make two-year community colleges free for students who maintain good grades, according to a plan unveiled by the White House on Thursday.

Since this announcement, a great deal of the focus has been on the word “free,” which, obviously, is ridiculous. In fact, per USA Today, the initiative would cost around $70 billion:

But the White House expects 9 million students to participate and save up to $3,800 a year for two years. That would place the cost at nearly $70 billion, though there are questions about building capacity at the nation’s 1,100 community colleges.

The federal government would pay three quarters of the cost, at least initially.

No, actually, “it” wouldn’t. You would pay. As Reihan Salam pointed out this morning:

President Obama has announced a new plan to make community college free for all students. Or, to put a slightly different spin on it, he’s calling for shifting the cost of community college from the students who attend them and their families to taxpayers.

This, of course, is Obama’s favored modus operandi. First, contrive a way of sending money to your voting coalition; then accuse anybody who notices the game of hating the poor.

Still, this part of the plan jumped out at me more than did the price tag:

“What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” President Obama said in video posted to Facebook by the White House on Thursday.

To be eligible, students have to maintain a 2.5 GPA (C+) and make “steady progress” toward completing their program. Community colleges are expected to offer academic programs that either fully transfer credits to public four-year colleges and universities, or offer occupational training programs that have high graduation rates and “lead to in-demand degrees,” according to the White House.

Does anybody believe for a single second that the federal government would kick anybody off this program? Ever? In that it provides the Democratic party with the chance to impishly say, “but I thought Republicans liked hard work and self-improvement,” this is a nice play for the Left. But the promise that the funds will go only to “good” and committed students simply cannot be kept. Not only is the federal government extremely poor at enforcing the rules (look, by way of example, at the immigration system), but the pressure for the program to be expanded and entrenched would be considerable. How long do we imagine it would be before community college would be sold as a “right,” akin to, say, high school? And how easy do you think it would be to discriminate between the hard workers and the layabouts once that idea had been established? (“I got pregnant and slipped behind, and now they want to kick me out!”) 

Moreover, the staggering amounts of money involved would naturally tempt the receiving colleges toward chronic grade inflation and the routinely false reporting of standards. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way of ensuring that everybody has a 2.5 GPA than to tell those who directly benefit from the cash that their institution’s health is now contingent upon everybody having a 2.5 GPA. Government is already destroying higher education. This seems to be little more than a recipe for acceleration.

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