Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Will "Free" Community College Be Free? ... Graduation Rates Are Dismal ... What's Being Represented As Free Isn't Free At All

President Obama wants to make community college attendance free for 'serious' students. And what exactly does he mean by the word free?

Assuming the teachers won't work for no pay, who will pay the teachers? Who will pay the administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians, security guards, coaches and the like? Taxpayers, of course. Thus, tuition and fees for attending students won't be free.

But what about all the other costs for students like transportation expenses? Books? Food? Lodging? And lost opportunity costs such as no income due to starting work later in life? And repaying the borrowed student loans?

And upon entering, will these newly enrolled students be fully prepared to take advantage of their "free" community college opportunity, or will they need to take remedial courses due to a lack of  adequate preparation during their "free" K-12 years?

Support Our Students has an interesting take on things:

"All college commencements are happy, but community-college commencements are the happiest of all. Many of the graduates are the first in their extended family to have earned degrees. . . .

So when President Obama unveils his community-college plan in the State of the Union address Tuesday night, it represents an opportunity — an opportunity to create days like that for more students.

Obama’s headline idea is to make community college free. It would reduce two years of tuition costs to zero for students with decent grades and who graduate within three years. . . .

The problem is that getting students to enroll is neither hard nor important. The important task is to help students graduate. Community college drop out rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.

Spending $60 billion over 10 years to make community college free will do little to reduce that. In the first place, community college is already free for most poor and working-class students who qualify for Pell grants and other aid. In 2012, 38 percent of community-college students had their tuition covered entirely by grant aid and an additional 33 percent had fees of less than $1,000. . . .

The smart thing to do would be to scrap the Obama tuition plan. Students who go to community college free now have tragically high dropout rates. The $60 billion could then be spent on things that are mentioned in President Obama’s proposal — but not prioritized or fleshed out — which would actually increase graduation rates.

 First, you’d focus on living expenses. Tuition represents only a fifth of the costs of community-college life. The bulk is textbooks, housing, transportation and so on. Students often have to take on full-time or near-full-time jobs to cover the costs, and, once they do that, they’re much more likely to lose touch with college. . . .

You’d figure out the remedial education mess. Half of all community-college students arrive unprepared for college work. . . .
In short, you wouldn’t write government checks for tuition. . . .

We’ve had two generations of human capital policies. Human Capital 1.0 was designed to give people access to schools and other facilities. It was based on the 1970s liberal orthodoxy that poor people just need more money, that the government could write checks and mobility will improve.
Human Capital 2.0 is designed to help people not just enroll but to complete school and thrive. It's based on a much more sophisticated understanding of how people actually live, on the importance of social capital, on the difficulty of living in disorganized circumstances. The new research emphasizes noncognitive skills — motivation, grit and attachment — and how to use policy levers to boost these things.
The tuition piece of the Obama proposal is Human Capital 1.0. It is locked in 1970s liberal orthodoxy. Congress should take the proposal, scrap it and rededicate the money toward programs that will actually boost completion, that will surround colleges, students and their families with supporting structures. We don’t need another program that will lure students into colleges only to have them struggle and drop out."
Summing Up
Some version of Human Capital 2.0 is necessary for K-12, community college and four year colleges as well.
We are spending too much money for far too little benefit.
Throwing more money at the current broken and expensive system of American education is following the road to insanity by doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
More money isn't the answer. More government control isn't the answer either. 
Vouchers may make the most sense, but they probably won't happen in my lifetime. 

Instead we're likely to get more of the same old lip service and inferior results, while spending more money that we don't have to spend.

For both our young folks and taxpayers, it's sad but true.
That's my take.
Thanks. Bob.

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