A glaring admission of this came to light back in 2009, shortly after President Obama took office. In one of his first college commencement addresses that he would deliver as President, Mr. Obama traveled to Tempe, Arizona, home of Arizona State University. In a speech that discouraged what the President labeled the “selfishness” of business and for profit enterprise, Barack Obama admonished the students to instead deny themselves the pursuit of the “corner office” and pursue government employment, and charitable non-profit work.
These remarks from the President were not surprising, and were consistent with his disdain for private enterprise. What was a bit shocking, however, were the comments from the man to precede him at the podium, ASU President Dr. Michael Crowe.
Dr. Crowe began his speech of introduction with glowing remarks about President Obama. “No national leader before you,” Dr. Crowe said as he turned to look directly at the President, “has fully understood the role of education, knowledge and learning, in fulfilling the American ideal..”
This was a bit stunning, in and of itself. “No national leader” had understood education prior to Mr. Obama being elected? From there, however, Dr. Crowe tipped his hand on the financial agenda of ASU. “Mr. President, we join you today by committing to you and to the people of Arizona that we will continue building ASU as an egalitarian institution of advanced teaching and learning, and we commit to you also that no Arizona student will be left out of this institution and what we have to offer, because of his or her family’s income..”
There was the President of Arizona State University being quite clear about the school’s economic model. The school’s goal – at least one of the school’s goals – was to extend low-cost or now-cost tuition to as many “deserving” students as possible.
After President Obama left town, Dr. Crowe’s remarks stirred a bit of a backlash among ASU students, parents, and alumni. This was the ASU President who, in 2009, presided over no less than a 15% increase in tuition rates in less than seven years, yet there he was telling President Obama on a stage that he goal was to “give it away for free” to more lower income students.
This illustrates the not-so-little secret about the rising costs of higher education: colleges and universities are often set up to function like their own little economic re-distribution systems. And while the goal of getting lower income Americans enrolled in college is noble – education is a key to lifting people out of poverty – the cost of enrolling lower income students is often balanced on the backs of middle class students and parents. If a student isn’t “poor enough” to qualify for needs-based tuition assistance, then, too bad – the student will likely face ever-rising tuition rates.
This needs-based thinking has now begun to apply to non-citizens. In 2011, the bankrupt government of California passed a law to provide scholarships to illegal immigrant students, and just last week, in the midst of the current student loan debate, USA Today reported several colleges and universities are now contemplating illegal alien scholarships.
Will President Obama – or any other politician – dare to address this stark reality?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.