The Corner

Education

What’s Wrong with the Idea of ‘Free’ College?

Everyone knows that Bernie and Hillary tried to fire up their redistributionist supporters by yammering about their plans for “free” college in 2016. What few people know is that Tennessee actually fell for that in 2015, enacting its “Drive to 55” initiative. The “55” is the target for the percentage of Tennessee residents who have college credentials of some kind, a target the state wants to hit by 2025.

It isn’t working out quite as hoped, and Chris West looks at the consequences in today’s Martin Center article.

The plan lures students into the state’s community colleges with free tuition. You might immediately think that would appeal to students from poor backgrounds, but in fact this is turning out to be a middle-class entitlement. The data, West writes, show that “low-income students are not the ones benefiting from this program. It’s just the opposite: free college programs disproportionately benefit students from middle-class and wealthier backgrounds because those students do not qualify for federal Pell Grants or other assistance.”

Moreover, West writes, “Tennessee has also lowered the requirements for acceptance into community colleges, such as doing away with algebra as a prerequisite for nontechnical tracks. Additionally, Tennessee’s community college system has been forced to increase the number of remedial courses it offers for unqualified students.”

Another unintended consequence is the “free college” plan is that some students who would have pursued other kinds of education or training after high school — programs that would have probably worked better for them — are instead availing themselves of no-cost community college.

West nails the truth here:

People should also be suspicious of claims that their prosperity depends primarily on higher education. While it is true that the future economy will grow more sophisticated and knowledge-dependent, it is best to let educational levels rise as needed, rather than trying to force people into educational programs for jobs that don’t exist — and may never exist.

True, but even in a generally conservative state like Tennessee, politicians can’t resist meddling.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

Most Popular

Immigration

The Party’s Over — No More Guest(worker)s

Last month's Presidential Proclamation temporarily suspending a tiny sliver of permanent immigration in response to Great Depression 2.0 also called for a review of the alphabet soup of foreign-worker programs. The relevant cabinet departments were instructed to offer recommendations "to stimulate the United ... Read More
Immigration

The Party’s Over — No More Guest(worker)s

Last month's Presidential Proclamation temporarily suspending a tiny sliver of permanent immigration in response to Great Depression 2.0 also called for a review of the alphabet soup of foreign-worker programs. The relevant cabinet departments were instructed to offer recommendations "to stimulate the United ... Read More

The Makings of Modern Madness

The paradigm of mind–brain dualism, like the story of syphilis, is by no means virgin territory. However, Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell’s How The Brain Lost Its Mind: Sex, Hysteria, and the Riddle of Mental Illness puts both the legacy of dualism and the story of syphilis under the microscope, and offers a ... Read More

The Makings of Modern Madness

The paradigm of mind–brain dualism, like the story of syphilis, is by no means virgin territory. However, Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell’s How The Brain Lost Its Mind: Sex, Hysteria, and the Riddle of Mental Illness puts both the legacy of dualism and the story of syphilis under the microscope, and offers a ... Read More
U.S.

Unsustainable America

Americans are having fewer babies than ever, or at least than since the government began tracking the general fertility rate in 1909. The total fertility rate ticked down to 1.7 in 2019, meaning that the average number of babies an American woman would have over her lifetime is well below replacement ... Read More
U.S.

Unsustainable America

Americans are having fewer babies than ever, or at least than since the government began tracking the general fertility rate in 1909. The total fertility rate ticked down to 1.7 in 2019, meaning that the average number of babies an American woman would have over her lifetime is well below replacement ... Read More
World

‘Professor Lockdown’ Modeler Resigns in Disgrace

Neil Ferguson is the British academic who created the infamous Imperial College model that warned Boris Johnson that, without an immediate lockdown, the coronavirus would cause 500,000 deaths and swamp the National Health Service. Johnson’s government promptly abandoned its Sweden-like “social ... Read More
World

‘Professor Lockdown’ Modeler Resigns in Disgrace

Neil Ferguson is the British academic who created the infamous Imperial College model that warned Boris Johnson that, without an immediate lockdown, the coronavirus would cause 500,000 deaths and swamp the National Health Service. Johnson’s government promptly abandoned its Sweden-like “social ... Read More

John Wayne: The Hero We Need Now

America fits into John Wayne's filmography, and this does not make America small. It makes John Wayne huge. The coronavirus has brought us back to the Wild West. Lonely lives, deserted streets, looks of distrust, and whiskey for throat disinfection; the scientific community has not made an official statement as ... Read More

John Wayne: The Hero We Need Now

America fits into John Wayne's filmography, and this does not make America small. It makes John Wayne huge. The coronavirus has brought us back to the Wild West. Lonely lives, deserted streets, looks of distrust, and whiskey for throat disinfection; the scientific community has not made an official statement as ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Biden’s Progressive Gamble

A few hours after this column appears on the Internet, more than 30 liberal activists will meet online to plan your future. The gathering is called the “Friday Morning Group.” It comprises, according to the New York Times, “influential figures at labor unions, think tanks and other progressive ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Biden’s Progressive Gamble

A few hours after this column appears on the Internet, more than 30 liberal activists will meet online to plan your future. The gathering is called the “Friday Morning Group.” It comprises, according to the New York Times, “influential figures at labor unions, think tanks and other progressive ... Read More