Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why Obama's "Free" Community College Plan is a Terrible Idea

Here's an idea: I really like watching football in HD.  It should be free!  I love books, too.  They should be free as well!  I need a computer to blog.  Obama should make it free!  New clothes would be nice.  Free!  Everything should be free!  Wouldn't that be great?  And we can make it happen.  We just have to use the might of the most powerful government on the planet to make other people give us their stuff!  Who's with me?!

Sorry, I got a little carried away there thinking about how I could vote myself lots of cool stuff.  In all seriousness Obama's plan is a bad idea.

For starters, the federal government has absolutely no business meddling with something as important as education.  There is no power related to education ("education" is in fact nowhere mentioned) in the Constitution and all powers not mentioned are reserved for the states.  Some will of course give a torturous reading of the Commerce Clause, 14th Amendment, etc. but such interpretations are just that: tortured.  George Bush should have known better with his "No Child Left Behind" policy (of course GW was a neo-Con and not old school).

Second, it's a subsidy for fat-cat administrators over schools that already have a dismal graduation rate.

Third, there is a real worry that it will hurt private colleges many of which are ALREADY at a disadvantage since they do not receive public funds directly.  Look where my private college (OBU) ranks in faculty salaries, for instance (I couldn't fit the whole table in, so what you get are just full professors, namely ones that have been teaching for a very long time; but the same holds across the board):

InstitutionCategory | State
Full professors avg. salary
Avg. raise for continuing full professors
Count of full professors
Avg. total compensation for full professors
University of Arkansas at FayettevilleDoctoral | Arkansas
University of Arkansas at Little RockMaster’s | Arkansas
Arkansas State UniversityMaster’s | Arkansas
University of Central ArkansasMaster’s | Arkansas
Hendrix CollegeBaccalaureate | Arkansas
Southern Arkansas UniversityBaccalaureate | Arkansas
Arkansas Tech UniversityBaccalaureate | Arkansas
Lyon CollegeBaccalaureate | Arkansas
Henderson State UniversityMaster’s | Arkansas
John Brown UniversityBaccalaureate | Arkansas
Ouachita Baptist UniversityBaccalaureate | Arkansas

Notice anything about the top and bottom? (I once interviewed for a Community College.  Thank heaven I didn't get the job.  But the pay would've been better than most of the private colleges I interviewed at.  The starting salaries here are in the low 40's.  The starting salary there--outside Cleveland--was in the 50's).

Fourth, it will arguably hurt religious institutions.  Public schools by their nature are not religious.  They tend to be bastions of political correctness for the very reason that they ultimately serve politicians.  (Of course there are leftist private institutions too).

Fifth, it is not free!  It will be paid for by taxation and in part by taxing college savings!?  Slate thinks it's a great idea (read it; it's hilarious).  This is classic:
It's also still a great idea. Unless, that is, you're really determined to subsidize college tuition for families with six-figure incomes so they can send their kids to Amherst or Brown. 
So not taxing interest made on savings (from money saved which has likely ALREADY been taxed at least once via income tax) is subsidizing the wealthy.  Only a born-again leftist could think that not taxing someone's savings' interest is subsidizing them.  Unbelievable--not to mention the fact that the majority of people with 529's saving for their kids' college make under $150,000!

Sixth, it makes a university education more like Grades 13 and 14 of high school.  This was exactly my wife's reaction when she first heard about it and it's the reaction of the author here.  I substitute taught for a year at public schools (and went to a good public school growing up) before I went on to do my Masters degree.  I never wanted to teach high school.  Why?  Because the students by and large take little responsibility for their education.  (I should know.  I was one of them!) They are FORCED to go and they PAY FOR NONE OF IT.  A college education is a privilege, not a right.

U.S. universities by and large are still the best in the world.  Germany can have its socialism and wonderful university vocational training.  We're not Germany nor should we want to be.  Unlike Europe, the Liberal Arts still has a foothold in the U.S. system. Don't fix what ain't broke.