Scott Shackford and Matthew Lesko Discuss What's Bad About Free Community College


You may know him more for his question-mark-addled attire than his name, but chances are you are at least a little familiar with Matthew Lesko's love of all things free and his exhaustive (and energetic!) efforts at getting the word out about free grants and government funding mechanisms.

So President Barack Obama's proposal for free community college was right in Lesko's wheelhouse. Who would be opposed to two years of free college? But Lesko does know full well that there can be problems when the federal government offers such a potentially huge program. After reading my analysis criticizing the proposal, Lesko reached out for an interview to help understand why this "free" program could end up being a bad deal. In a nine-minute interview we talk about the massive administrative bloat that has driven up the price of college without improving the quality of education, how making community college free would increase this bloat, and the role the government would play in deciding what types of educational programs qualify for the program and how that could drive up tuition for those who don't choose approved training paths. I also discuss my own background as a graduate of community college back in the day. This interview was recorded before I knew about the plans in the Obama budget to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create new and additional workplace credential programs, or I would have had even more to say. Watch below:

Special bonus video! Below, ReasonTV turned to Lesko in 2009 to help explain who got all the free government money from the big federal bailout (spoiler: It wasn't you). Watch below:

NEXT: Scott Walker Didn't Graduate From College a Quarter-Century Ago and The Washington Post Is On It!

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  1. What’s Bad About Free Community College

    It’s incredibly expensive.

  2. The Ten WORST Free Colleges and why People in YOUR AREA are Terrified of Them!

    1. This man applied for student loans to supplement his income and you WON’T BELIEVE what happened next!

      1. University Registrars HATE this single mom. Find out why!

  3. Get out of my markets, government. All of them. I don’t feel the need to experience yet more taxes, dilution of my net worth, extension of the age when I can retire, or insane pricing bubbles.

    Thanks in advance for your attention in this matter.

    1. It’s when you use a credit card to pay for something, then don’t pay the bill.

      1. that’s only free if you avoid the calls for a few years.

        1. Same thing we’ll do with free community college. Ignore the calls, threaten the credit bureaus with violence, take out more cards.

          1. That is pretty much the MO. There is always time to pay the bills later. Eventually the government will bail you out.

              1. Look, man, you’re all free market and stuff. if they can’t hack it in the market it’s not our fault.

    2. Free schools come with free lunches.

      1. and free breakfast, dinner, clothing, and a place to live. Plus internet, since we all know it’s a basic human right.

        1. Wait, no free transportation? And what about free contraception, abortions, and sex changes, you Neanderthal?

          1. of course. that’s phase 2.

    3. As long as you have checks, you’re good.

  4. “Greendale needs a win. The best compliment our sports program gets is that our basketball team is really gay.”

    1. You gotta stop reading Archie comics, Epi.

      1. Dean Pelton: We are developing the perfect mascot. No stereotypical identifiers from any race or gender. See, Jeff, this is a chart of the features we’re staying away from–pan-Asian eye folds, Irish chins, women’s breasts.

        Jeff Winger: Is that Seal?

        Dean Pelton: That is our human color wheel. It goes from Seal…to Seal’s teeth.

  5. Matthew Lesko is a true player.

    1. i’m confused. when did he turn away from it being ok to make money off of selling people information on how to get “free money” to parodying himself?

      1. Watch the VICE News story on him and you’ll get an inkling of the answer.

  6. Making money online is never easy, because it has now become me. I freelance on the Internet, earning $ 375 per hour. By doing the work only requires that you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can have one in your home to get more time with his family. A little effort and a handsome profit dream is just a click away …….


    1. Are you Matthew Lesko?

  7. So we’ve got Lesko, Drew Carey, sort of Clint Eastwood, and a discounted Gary Oldman. Wow, it’s kind of no wonder we don’t do very well.

      1. No wonder we don’t poll well with millenials…

      2. Don’t ever forget Big Boi, Lucious Leftfoot.

      3. vince vaughn too. gary Sinise? Joe Rogan. Doug Stanhope? Howard Stern? Robert Downey Jr.? The Rock? Ben Harper? Chris Rock? Keanu Reeves? Southpark dudes?

        There was apparently a lot of hope amongst certain libertarians that Obama would be, for his obvious faults, a net GAIN for libertarian policies (on the social front). These hopes were misguided (but after 8 years of Bush, and to see McCain as an alternative… can we really blame them?).

    1. And the Duke Porn Star and Kid Rock (kind of). Libertarian moment.

    2. Don’t forget Kurt Russell and Penn & Teller.

      1. I never count Penn because he voted for Obama.

        And isn’t Kurt Russell dead?

        1. Motherfuckers are always thinking they killed Snake.

          1. The name’s Plissken.

          2. Well you can’t kill Snake, but I think he can still die of like dementia-related incidents or non-Plissken-Lymphoma.

        2. That’s Patrick Swayze.

    3. why is he discounted?

  8. I was listening to Hate Radio the other day while driving home (All Progressive, All the Time!). The caller on a talk show opined that the reason that Evil Republicans were against “free” community college was because “The taxpayers will have to pick up the cost.” The host of the show just laughed.

    1. But it’s free. It’s paid for with tax money. -47%

    2. Um. . .yes. Spending money without revenues to cover it is bad. If they didn’t know that, why do they want tax increases or, heck, any taxes at all?

    3. Look. The rich don’t pay their fair share, or else they wouldn’t be rich. They can afford to pay for it.

    4. It’s funny how things that would be considered a no-brainer and/or something you shouldn’t say have become completely commonplace now. Saying “what’s wrong with having the taxpayers pick up the cost” has become a “normal” statement for a whole swath of leftists/progs. It’s incredible. They don’t even see why someone would find that absurd and insulting, in fact, if you do, it indicates to them that you’re on the other TEAM.

      Inane statements have become TEAM markers. Amazing.

      1. They don’t even see why someone would find that absurd and insulting

        Of course not. Besides, when they talk about raising taxes they don’t mean raising their taxes. They mean soaking the rich. And as we all know, the rich can afford it. Otherwise they wouldn’t be rich.

      2. So if the prospect of making taxpayers (the rich) pay for something doesn’t make you sexually aroused, then you’ve been brainwashed by supply-siders. You’re licking the corporate boot that holds you down. After all, those evil corporations and rich people give people jobs while providing goods and services to voluntary customers. Could anything be worse than that?

        1. So what we really need is a program of rich people adopting the rest of the population and providing for them.

  9. I have trouble expressing how much I loath Matthew Lesko.

      1. Lesko is the sort of supervillain you’d get if Steve Ditko had been hired to write an episode of the Adam West Batman show.

        1. Lesko is basically The Riddler without being as cool as Frank Gorshin.

          Personally, I prefer Victor Buono as King Tut.

        2. Why would Ditko make a libertarian-leaning villain? Is his villainy that Lesko didn’t read The Fountainhead enough?

          1. How is devoting your life to helping people get more free stuff from the Government libertarian?

            1. Shouldn’t we hate more on the people who, you know, give it to them?

            2. Maybe he’s trying to steal everything back? That kind of what you’d expect from a libertarian arch-villain.

            3. How is devoting your life to helping people get more free stuff from the Government libertarian?

              Lesko’s message has always been don’t hate the player, but hate the game. Or do you plan on returning all your social security checks to sender?

              1. Lesko’s message has always been don’t hate the player, but hate the game. Or do you plan on returning all your social security checks to sender?

                I’m certainly not returning my unemployment cheques.

            4. It’s very Francisco DAnconia (The actual book character, not the Reason commenter).

              Not only do you get some of your taxed money back from the government via the program (recall Ayn Rand ‘s rationale for taking Medicare payments late in life) – You help the statists running the program and who think it’s a good idea double-down on their stupidity so they self-destrcut and “learn the lesson” sooner.

              I’m not totally on board with that in all cases, but that’s what I’m guessing here.

              1. I think you mean Ragnar, not Francisco.

              2. Not only do you get some of your taxed money back from the government via the program

                Assuming the beneficiaries of the free stuff program are paying taxes to begin with.

            1. I hate what the New 52 has done to the Question.

              1. I don’t read a lot of DC or Marvel, but I googled Question’s new backstory and my god does it sound stupid.

  10. “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

  11. Speaking of administrative burdens, I got an email last week regarding a new bill pending in our wonderful legislature to “make textbooks affordable”. Among other things…

    This bill: Requires state colleges and universities to regularly conduct a cost-benefit analysis in comparing options for textbooks and instructional materials to ensure students get the highest quality product at the lowest available price.

    This bill: Requires state colleges and universities to annually report to the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Board of Governors (BOG) the following:
    ? Cost of undergraduate textbooks and instructional materials, by course and section;
    ? Textbook and instructional material selection process for high-enrollment courses;
    ? Any institution specific initiatives that reduce the cost of textbooks and instructional materials,
    ? The number of courses and course sections that were not able to meet the 14 day textbook and instructional material posting deadline, and
    ? Any additional criteria determined by the chancellors.
    The state college and state university Chancellors will compile these reports and submit a comprehensive report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

    1. Just the thing to make college more affordable: have them all spend more money on compliance!

    2. Let me guess– funded by a fee on textbook sales?

  12. There are all sorts of bad incentives baked into the idea of free community college.

    To start with, when something is given away “free” most people do not value it as highly. This is very obvious from the seriousness with which the average college freshman takes school that is paid for by his or her parents. It’s very obvious that lots of them aren’t as interested in learning as they are in socializing and dating.
    This is the culture that is bred by “free” college.

    Secondly, it is ALREADY the case that there are people who will treat college tax credits and loans as an excuse to not work for a few years. Can’t get a job? Enroll in community college! The government willgive you money to live off of , and you can worry about paying off the loans later!
    You have NO IDEA how many people out there already think of it like this. Two years of free community college really just means two years of being able to goof off and not work. To a lot of people.

    Point is that anything that is “free” will be overconsumed, undervalued, and abused.
    The healthcare sector figured this out decades ago, which is why there is always at least a nominal co-pay for every service.

    The consumer needs to have some skin in the game, whether it’s a patient or a student at a college.
    It’s absolutely essential that student at least pay some minimal fee, or the college system will be overwhelmed by students that are signed up but don’t bother to attend classes.

    1. Secondly, it is ALREADY the case that there are people who will treat college tax credits and loans as an excuse to not work for a few years. Can’t get a job? Enroll in community college!

      So, Europe, basically.

    2. I’ve got a family member who is in is forties who has never had a job. He’s been a college student his whole life. After switching majors who knows how many times, he finally got a doctorate in literature or something. Then went back to school when he couldn’t get a job. This is in Canada though, I don’t know how college funding works there.

    3. “Time to bend around Europe for a few months, then get a job bending.”

      1. “I’m a bender. I went to bending college. I majored in bending.”

        1. You’re Bender from Bending State?

    4. Unfortunately, you’ve just made the same concise, logical and demonstrably true argument we’ve been making to progressives for decades. If it hasn’t sunk in by now…

  13. There’s a good piece somewhere (Foreign Policy mag?) that showed how Egypt’s policy of subsidizing education created a huge bubble in the labor force where everyone has PhD’s but the economy mostly needs cab drivers, so what you ended up with was 2 generations of over-educated, under-employed people who (SURPRISE!) turned to the muslim brotherhood and looked to overthrow the govt.

    More or less.

    here’s a book.

    1. On the plus side maybe all those over-educated community college grads will have the degrees necessary to be daycare providers.

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