By Zachary Clark
We get it. School is expensive, and it is indisputable that the cost of college education these days can really put a dent in your wallet.
Recently, President Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he plans to develop a new government program that will grant community college students two years of free tuition. His vision is for two-year community college to be “as free and as universal in America as high school is today.” Whether this is realistic and a good idea or irrational with ill effects, the prospect of easily accessible higher education is attractive. But what exactly are the pros and cons? Is it possible to achieve affordable community and technical college for all Americans?
We are living in a time when a high school diploma alone is rarely enough to secure a professional and well-paying career. Obama’s plan to institute free community college tuition would give those otherwise unable to continue in school some insight, tools and credibility that they will need to stand a chance in securing that higher-paying job. Plus, by covering the cost of community college, this program could also diminish the amount of time that students in difficult financial situations would have to spend working at jobs outside the classroom, which could delay their ability to graduate on time.
Although this notion of free community college is attractive, it is critical to consider the issue from the other side of the fence. The Republican Party recently took control of both houses in Congress after November’s election. Many of its members oppose the president’s idea, citing research by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis concerning the Department of Education. According to reports, this new program will require states to pay 25 percent of the costs that Obama’s administration estimated will reach a total of $6 billion each year. Many members of the Republican-led Congress have used the example of Obama’s previous policy for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to compare its disadvantages with problems they believe will occur if this new reform passes.
While the president’s concept appears to be an innovative and beneficial for students, will it succeed, or will it do more harm than good in the long run? It appears that while two- year tuition would become free for community college students, it would put a significant strain on state budgets while adding to the ever-growing national debt.
In all, this proposal is attractive, but realistically, it falls short. It is a pretty idea, but the reality of the fiscal repercussions of this proposal outweighs the mirage of universally accessible community college education.