Free college: good intention, bad planning

Pierce Godwin
Staff Writer

During the last State of the Union address, President Obama outlined many policies that he would like to accomplish in the second half of his last term.

With the help of Congress, Obama wants “to lower the cost of community college — to zero.” There is also speculation that he wants to create a plan to assist students enrolled in public, four-year institutions.

It is great to finally see the government trying to make higher education more accessible for everyone. However, it seems that this is the wrong way to do it, and that this policy could do more harm than good.

Newsweek outlined the plan, saying that “the most contentious aspect of the plan is its price tag. The proposal calls for the federal government to spend $60 billion in 10 years, covering 75 percent of tuition costs; states would kick in the remaining 25 percent.”

The biggest problem with the president’s proposal concerns who is going to pay for this. Either Congress will be forced to enact a tax increase, which will force millions of Americans to pay for this, or the government will just pay for it and the national debt will just continue to rise.

Another problem with a tax increase is that many of the Americans who will be affected by the increase will not benefit from it.

The president has always talked about increasing taxes on individuals who make above a certain income. Many of these individuals have attained a college degree, and they were forced to pay for their own college.

If Congress does not increase taxes, then the government will just increase spending. In that case, we will have just created a policy that makes the people we are trying to help responsible for paying it back on a national level.

The president’s plan is one of good intentions though, but we know that college isn’t free. There is still a multitude of other fees that students have to pay for.

Newsweek also said that the president used Chicago and Tennessee as inspiration for this plan, but “experts say it’s too early to gauge the successes of those programs because their first wave of applicants is still months away from even graduating high school.”

I personally think that one of the best ways to make college more affordable is to fix the public education system. If our students in elementary, middle and high school had access to a better education, they might be eligible for many scholarship opportunities schools already offer. Troy University offers students free tuition if they graduate with a 3.5 GPA and a score of at least a 27 on their ACT.

The president mentioned other states are already implementing a plan like this. Community college has a lot to offer. Many graduate with an associate degree, and move on to great jobs. Other students transfer out to a four-year institution.

An article by CNN said 80 percent of students say they want a bachelor’s degree or higher, and yet only 20 percent of these students transfer to a four-year institution within five years.

Ty McBurnett, a sophomore geomatics major from Prattville, said “community college is a good stepping stone for those who are not ready to attend a four-year college.”

It’s sad to see so many seniors graduate from high school and come to college unprepared. We should adjust our sights on bettering the quality of our public schools.

The last issue with this plan is the sense of entitlement. Things always mean more to you when you have worked hard for it. But when things are given to us, we don’t treat them as well.

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