The Problem With Obama's Community College Plan

Conn Carroll
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Posted: Jan 20, 2015 9:32 PM
The Problem With Obama's Community College Plan

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama proposed a $60 billion plan to make community college free for "responsible" students. 

The only problem is, too many high school students are unprepared for community college as it is, the regulations that come with Obama's money will only make community colleges more ineffective, and Obama's billions will crowd out innovative private sector options that do a better job preparing students for today's job market.

2012 Inside Higher Ed study found that not only did 52 percent of community college students have to take at least one remedial course, but just 22 percent of students who took remedial courses went on to finish their two-year degree. All Obama's plan would really do is create nationally funded 6-year high schools.

Worse, just as Obama's Race to the Top plan has drowned school districts in millions of hours compliance paperwork, Obama's community college plan would also force participating schools to jump through new federal bureaucratic hoops.

Finally, government subsidized tuition at public community college will also crowd out private sector solutions. The Manhattan Institute's Judah Bellin explains:

Furthermore, the for-profit industry has proven to be successful for many students who enroll in short-term programs. Students at for-profits are more likely to obtain certificates and associate's degrees, which typically take one or two years to complete, than students who begin these programs at community colleges. And after their first year, they are more likely to stay in such programs and less likely to need to take remedial courses than their community-college peers. Recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center provides even more promising news. In 2007, among students attending two-year colleges, those who attended private, for-profit schools had a six-year completion rate of 62%, whereas their peers at community colleges and private non-profits had completion rates of 40% and 53%, respectively.