Subsidies

Obama's Grandiose Plan Will Give Community College Administrators the Last Laugh at Our Expense

Obama enlists top-flight comedians to push his laughable "free" community college plan.

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CK for CC|||Tweet from the White House / HeadsUpAmerica.us

State of the Union (SOTU) addresses tend to bring out the grandiosity in presidents—like when President Nixon announced universal health insurance coverage in 1974, or when President Clinton announced universal health insurance coverage in 1994, or when President Obama announced universal health insurance coverage in 2010 that would let Americans "keep their doctor and their plan" and also "reduce costs and premiums." (About that…)

Unsurprisingly, after being routed in the most recent midterms, President Obama used his last SOTU to put together three big, appealing ideas: college, free, and community. Free community college!

The president is now touring the country promoting the plan, calling it "an idea whose time has come." The $60 billion program's time has certainly not come in a Republican-controlled Congress, however, so, as the president's domestic policy advisor Cecilia Muñoz acknowledges, the president will try to gin up support outside of the Capitol in hopes of pressuring lawmakers into getting on board.

As part of the public relations push, eminent comedians Louis CK and Chris Rock appeared in a White House video this week urging Americans to "join the movement" to "make two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today."

Lending their celebrity to a federal education plan contrasts with some of Rock's and Louis' previous musings on government's role in education. 

Rock's act circa 1999 included an impassioned, if frequently facetious, rant against public expenditures on education. Back then, he said:

I an't got no kids. Why am I paying school tax? I know some of y'all got kids….I don't care if your kid's in the 10th grade with coloring books. I wear condoms for a reason.

It's worth noting that given Rock's (sadly justified) fear of condemnation from politically correct college campuses, he probably won't be performing for the students at the community colleges whose subsidies he's plugging.

Recently, Louis CK issued a series of tweets on the absurdity of the Common Core State Standards and his opposition to standardized testing regimes. Among them:

My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!

"Why [m]ight you want each picture to stand for more than 1 balloon?" Yet again I must tell my kid "don't answer it. It's a bad question."

As celebrities take time out of their busy schedules to promote the president's community college plan, it's worth also taking time to remember why this is such an ill-conceived idea.

The program, dubbed "America's College Promise," is grandiose in the sense of being pretentious: It's an answer in search of a question. Community college is already affordable. As The Washington Post has noted, existing federal Pell Grants cover more than the average cost of tuition at community college:

The maximum amount of a Pell Grant award today is just under $6,000 a year. Average community college tuition is approximately $4,000, not including the cost of additional fees, books, transportation, food, child care (if applicable) and other expenditures. The president's proposed "America's College Promise" is of no added value to our least privileged students. 

Ironically, as noted by Larry Kudlow and John Bachelor on The John Bachelor Show, the president's own SOTU anecdote introducing "America's College Promise" implicitly acknowledged that community college is already an affordable option. The heartwarming story of Ben and Rebekah Erler making it in America was one of self-reliance. In Obama's words:

Rebekah took out student loans and enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed for each other.  And slowly, it paid off. "It is amazing," Rebekah wrote, "what you can bounce back from when you have to…We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times."

Apparently, the president's current publicity tour "will highlight existing programs providing free community college." Yes, he wants to create more such programs, but again, with Pell Grants in existence, it's unclear what remains to be done.

Not only is the plan unnecessary, but it is also likely to be counterproductive. As with federal loans for four-year colleges and graduate schools, the promise of a tuition subsidy per head predictably incentivizes institutions to raise tuition.

Why? Because schools that can fill classes pre-subsidy know they'll be able to fill them at higher prices post-subsidy. As Scott Shackford has previously noted for Reason, the plan's own quality control requirements will also likely increase the size of already bloated administrative offices at community colleges. The cost of staffing and running those offices will then consume a huge chunk of the subsidized tuition revenues they'll now be receiving. Shackford wrote:

Ultimately what will happen is that the subsidies will be consumed by this bloat and community colleges will not be able to expand to actually accommodate additional students, so we'll see more students being forced to wait, or tuition costs will quickly rise above the administration's subsidy (which doesn't seem to have a cap, but obviously is going to have to or god help us all) in order to get more money to actually pay for the classes the students need. This is exactly what's happening at four-year colleges already.

Though Obama rolled out the comedians, if his plan succeeds, community college administrators will have the last laugh at our expense.

NEXT: University of California considering recognizing a "right" to be "free from ... expressions of intolerance"

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  1. Hey, I have an idea, how about we enact this bullshit and finance it with a tax on the entertainment industry?

    1. Like every big business, Hollywood would just pass that tax onto the consumers. Then again, higher entertainment prices would lead to more piracy, and less overall revenue for them. But I think good Libertarians should resist ALL proposed tax increases, even on people we don’t like.

      1. Yes, I agree. It was offered more in jest than anything.

        On the other hand, want to bet how quick their support would backtrack?

        1. Even though it goes against everything I believe, it would be fun to see the government aggressively pursue high-earning actors and tax them at 90%, or so. It would be interesting to see how many Progressive entertainers flee the state to avoid the tax.

        2. I’ll take your bet. The Entertainment industry didn’t bail on Al and Tipper Gore after they tried to get their music banned. It’s all about TEAM and entertainment belongs to TEAM BLUE.

        1. You have something against people living in the Caribbean?

          1. Not if they send rum in tribute…

      2. Here’s a tax that I think even libertarians would go for: A 90% marginal tax on all earnings by former politicians and “civil servants” above, say, two times the inflation-adjusted salary they received from government “service”. They could double their salary when they went through the revolving door, but that’s all.

    2. It’s a mark of just how weak and witless the GOP leadership is that they haven’t loudly pushed something like this. Keep in mind this is a multi-billion dollar industry so it’s not like the money isn’t there for the taking.

      A 90% “entertainment surtax” proposal would make for some pretty epic lulz. Especially if they hit at guys like Clooney and Mr. and Mrs. Pitt for their overseas villas.

      1. I want Matt Damon taxed until he takes home the average American salary.

        1. “I want Matt Damon taxed until he takes home the average American salary.”

          I’m onboard–where do I sign up? It’d be a chance for him to send his kids to one of those public schools that he raves so much about.

        2. I want Sean Penn taxed until he takes home the average Venezuelan salary.

          1. Half a roll of single-ply tp a month?

  2. The $60 billion program’s time has certainly not come in a Republican-controlled Congress, however, so, as the president’s domestic policy advisor Cecilia Mu?oz acknowledges, the president will try to gin up support outside of the Capitol in hopes of pressuring lawmakers into getting on board.

    Lest we forget that Republicans serve at least this purpose when they control Congress. Can you imagine how much worse things would be if Obama could implement half the stuff he wants?

    1. Pretty sure you’re going to get me fired one of these days.

      Maybe today!

      1. Not my fault you don’t work in a porn factory.

        1. He does work in the pr0n factory, but you just made him play a song from the rival pr0n factory!

          It is the disloyalty that is going to get him canned, not the content.

  3. The problem with communists is that they are just so stupid.

  4. “Let’s make two years of community college as free and universal crappy and pointless as high school is today”

    1. Damn, you stole my comment. But I will add this: the US already has a large proportion of its people get bachelors degrees or higher, about 42%. That’s higher than the percentage in Germany or Denmark, and roughly equal to Canada or Sweden. Among countries that rank higher than us are economic powerhouses like Russia and Poland. There is just no evidence that sending everybody to college is really anything we need to do.

    2. Exactly.

      “Free” universal college is going to mean a boatload of students who really don’t belong in college will go. At that point the colleges will inevitably dumb down the curriculum even further to make sure they don’t lose the students. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      1. “Free” universal college is going to mean a boatload of students who really don’t belong in college will go.

        It’s already at that point right now, to be honest. As you pointed out, it’s just going to exacerbate the problem.

        Utopians simply have no concept of the limits of scale and that people aren’t cogs that can just be thrown into a high-quality system and automatically become successful. If people don’t already have the intellectual tools to handle a college curriculum, letting them go for free isn’t going to make them any better students.

        I suspect this proposal is also a way for shitty inner-city schools to cheese their college attendance figures. Push their functionally illiterate students through, help enroll them in the local community college, and then claim that 100% of their graduates go on to attend post-secondary education.

        1. “Utopians simply have no concept of the limits of scale and that people aren’t cogs that can just be thrown into a high-quality system and automatically become successful. If people don’t already have the intellectual tools to handle a college curriculum, letting them go for free isn’t going to make them any better students.”

          I think it goes to show how conflicted most “progressives” are deep down inside. When it comes to a “free” community college program, they’ll proudly espouse the idea that everyone can be engineers, doctors, and scientists if only someone else would pay for it. But other times (and I’m sure we’ve all seen them do this) they’ll spew venom about how 99 percent of people are irredeemably stupid and must be led by an elite panel of TOP MEN.

  5. Ultimately what will happen is that the subsidies will be consumed by this bloat and community colleges will not be able to expand to actually accommodate additional students

    This sounds like evidence of the silliness of expanding subsidies to those colleges, until you realize that the purpose of the subsidies is not to provide cheap or “free” college to students but to increase the number of Democratic political activists by fertilizing the administrative offices of community colleges which are their growing grounds.

  6. I’d be OK with free community college under one condition: if you drop out, or fail the class then you have to pay (ideally, a substantial amount) for it.

    1. IIRC, the original plan as stated in the SOTU would require that the student maintain a 2.5 GPA. Whether or not that’s gone by the wayside, I’m not sure.

      1. And I’m sure that won’t lead to any grade inflation, no sirree.

      2. “require that the student maintain a 2.5 GPA.”

        I’m sure this standard will be deemed racist and eliminated (at least for women and non-whites).

    2. And major in something useful. Fuck that social justice shit. Not with my tax dollars.

      1. The local community college here offers an associates degree in something called “peace studies”. I shit you not.

  7. As The Washington Post has noted, existing federal Pell Grants cover more than the average cost of tuition at community college

    This is exactly the sort of thing Obama is determined to end.

  8. Serious question; Why am I bothering to put money away for college for my daughter? I’m not sure it’s worth it.

    1. Well, savings are always good. If you are doing this on your own you have a nice little nest egg which you can pass on to her if you so choose.

      I’m not sure how those 529 tax deferred college savings things work. If you’re letting the government hold your money, I’d be suspicious.

    2. The only reason to do that would be that you don’t want government welfare money. It is actually imprudent to save for kids’ educations for any other reason. If the kids have a 529 or a custodial account, you can forget about any financial aid until it’s depleted.

      1. A brief review of the VA 529 plan seemed to indicate that most of the money in those accounts is currently not counted as an asset when evaluating students for aid eligibility. And they would never change those criteria. And you’re just being paranoid if you think those accounts will be raided one day.

  9. So what’s Obama’s plan for paying for the multiple professional degrees I’m going to need to make any money after he gives every retard free community college?

    1. As I pointed out elsewhere, we’re on our way to requiring a master’s degree for everything. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    2. Next step: Ban educational requirements for jobs under a disparate impact theory.

    3. Free Ph.Ds for everyone!!

      1. I got mine on the federal dime!

  10. I an’t got no kids. Why am I paying school tax? I know some of y’all got kids….I don’t care if your kid’s in the 10th grade with coloring books. I wear condoms for a reason.

    Who hurt you, Chris? How could any dean be so mean?

    1. Obama’s so dreamy that he saw the light – more school taxes for all!

      1. Well, Obama is the country’s boss and its dad. And now, I guess, its dean.

        1. Wow … that is really retarded.

  11. Leftists like to condemn us for not giving away “free” college education like they do in (say) Germany, while conveniently neglecting to mention that only the best students get it. But that’s horribly classist so we should just give it to everybody.

    1. And in Germany a HS (Gymnasium) diploma actually means something. And the technical and trade schools also have meaningful programs.

  12. Oh boy, let’s subsidize even more marginal students so they can waste another four or six months of their lives before they drop out and decide the job stocking shelves at Big Mart is their future and not swimming with the dolphins or doing cool CSI work in exotic locations.

  13. Everyone has a right to a meaningless piece of paper that says “you’re part of the intellectual elite, no go rule over the cattle as their progressive superior”.

  14. Cognitive dissonance reigns supreme among entertainers

      1. I used to love Boogie Down Productions, don’t really remember this song. I have heard it before but not back then. Thanks for the nostalgia

  15. If there is a class that teaches “proper professional email etiquette” then I could support this. k thanx. LOL. wat. c u.

  16. Let’s all get stoned and then try to pronounce Jack’s last name.

    1. Sole owie.

      Dude, bro, i am wasted.

    2. I’m pretty sure I could pronounce it but I’ll get stoned with you all anyways.

  17. If free means it doesn’t cost anything, how’s this free? Somebody’s fucking paying for it.

    1. No they’re not. It’s free!

    2. Not free means the student pays $50 a credit hour to take a class. Free means we all pay $250 a credit hour for that student to take same class.

    3. ^This

      If high school is “free” then why does the government constantly keep raising taxes to fund education?

  18. “make two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today.”

    Seems like maybe what they really want to do is add grades 13 and 14. I guess k-12 wasn’t thoroughly brainwashing students enough. There’s still some who slip through the cracks and graduate HS believing in liberty and free markets instead of being subservient to the state.

    1. I guess k-12 wasn’t thoroughly brainwashing underserving students enough

    2. ^This. But as noted above the previously underbribed comm coll admins and faculty are now getting a bigger piece of the action.

  19. As part of the public relations push, eminent comedians Louis CK and Chris Rock appeared in a White House video this week urging Americans to “join the movement” to “make two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today.”

    Because our high schools are amazingly awesome and colleges should be more like them.

    1. I went back to college and got a Finance degree a few years ago. There were kids in my classes, recent high school graduates mind you, that did not comprehend fractions, ratios, percentages, etc. There were kids that couldn’t concieve of “billions” and thought “millions” was where counting stopped. I spent alot of time teaching 20 year olds basic math skills. Also, they can’t write for shit.

      1. I hope you were well-paid for your tutoring services. Because if you were doing it for free you were just propping up the dysfunctional public schools. And I realize that you were also helping actual people who had received substandard educations through no fault of their own. That’s the conundrum – you help people but also prop up the parasites.

      2. Did you at least get sex in exchange?

  20. Who is this Jack Solowey, and why is he not being hazed right now?

  21. The only good I could see coming from this scheme is that hopefully a lot of these half-assed students would end up taking some trade classes and we’d end up with more plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

    My hope would be that they’d have to enroll in something and they would figure out that learning a trade leads to a lot of money (much more than an english major).

    I’m in negotiations with an electrician right now and I sure wish there was more competition to keep his wages down. I actually know what the problem is, but have no time (or skillz) to be able to run the appropriate cable through my walls. Fuck the goddamned colonial pilgrim who wired my house!

  22. My kids completed their last two years of HS at a dual-credit charter school at a community college. I was somewhat disappointed that political correctness and anti-capitalism had already infected the community college system but, overall, I was satisfied with the quality of instruction. It was a very good deal for my family; both kids got a HS diploma and an Associates degree by age 18, and later got BS degrees from university in half the time others took.

    However, over the three years that I shuttled the kids to and fro the community college, I observed that the traffic and parking followed a pattern as each semester progressed. Early in each semester, traffic was fairly congested and parking lots were full. As the semester progressed, traffic congestion diminished and the parking lots had more and more empty spaces. The kids reported that the number of seats occupied in their classrooms followed the same pattern.

    Many of the courses offered at community colleges are just remedial education due to the failure of junior high schools and high schools to teach basic 3Rs. Completion rates for community colleges are dismal. Only 40% of full time public CC students obtain a 2-year associates degree or higher in six years. Six years.

    I actually like the idea of community colleges. However, Obama’s plan is doomed. It simply plans to remedy 13 years of crappy government schooling with two more years of crappy government schooling

  23. Why do progressives consider comedians and celebrities to be ideal people to promote their agendas? When considering the merits of a proposed governmental policy, who asks themselves, ‘I wonder what Chris Rock or Matt Damon thinks about this?’

    1. Because they are idiots. The job of actors is to emote which is the exact opposite of critical thinking.

    2. who asks themselves, ‘I wonder what Chris Rock or Matt Damon thinks about this?’

      I think they have something in common with those who think The Donald would be a good president.

    3. Because psychologically, a lot of people identify with celebrities. They watch their movies and shows, listen to their music, and see them in interviews on TV. They end up relating to them on a superficial level, which is why they get so butthurt if a celebrity tells them to fuck off when they ask for an autograph or picture while the celebrity is having dinner.

      I believe research has shown that when celebrities promote a cause (and this goes back decades), people are more likely to support it over time. It’s no accident that Reagan cultivated a lot of his former Hollywood and media relationships in his rise to the Presidency, nor is it an accident that Obama uses them as propaganda organs for his policies.

  24. Also, this is a poke in the eye to the private trade schools who are universally reviled by the proggies. Granted, many of those schools turn out a substandard product, but consider that they have to work with the public school graduates who couldn’t get into even the marginally-competitive, geographically-designated, third-tier state run colleges.

  25. renaming Pell Grants to Obama Grants would probably satiate Obama and his idiot minions.

    1. There used to be a poster on here called LoneWacko. Is your handle an homage to him?

  26. Aside from buying votes, which is of course the main motivation, I wonder if they aren’t also hoping this will paper over their destruction of the entry-level job market, by keeping a cohort out of that market to paint the charts.

    1. Folks, we have a winner!

  27. Not only is the plan unnecessary, but it is also likely to be counterproductive.

    Get ready for skyrocketing community college costs as incentive to be efficient is removed because they will get their money no matter what.

  28. If Democrats\Republicans want people to have a degree so they can get a job, why don’t they just skip the “free” college plan and give the money directly to the people?

    Oh, wait…

  29. While it might seem like people choose community college because of the cost a closer look at student populations might show that many actually choose community college because the low tuition allows them to REPEAT MANY COURSES for a higher grade and also to take out thousands of dollars in student loans to supplement living expenses. If community college is free, this will highlight the outrageous amount of student loan money students take out to support themselves. Students that have poor academic backgrounds or who have been disenfranchised and marginalized by lack of equitable funding of public schools across socioeconomic levels often end up in community college because they have no other choice. Many students are coming out of jail or prison, they care for family or disabled relatives, they are military veterans going through recovery and career transitioning programs or they are single parents without family support, or they have mental illnesses or special needs that have been completely ignored by their school systems. Many of these students spend 4 to 10 years in and out of community college courses and take science, math and economic classes MULTIPLE times in order to pass because instructors in community colleges are not certified teachers or full time teachers and have little to no clue, interest or empathy for their student’ challenges and needs and their professors are given too much freedom to design and teach courses.

  30. The departments BANK off of these students and put pressure on adjuncts to fail the students over and over until they meet ridiculous and socially unjust standards for performance considering theyamount of material they must master in short periods of time. Many of these students have neurological issues but are forced to memorize NOT learn, integrate, synthesize and apply or the classes are so dumbed down that hey are pointless and meaningless money makers for the colleges. After all of that, if the students do transfer, their grades are considered community college grades and they get the your ‘A’ is actually a ‘C’ attitude from tenured professors with private and ivy league backgrounds. In the worst case scenarios, they have a large student loan debt and can’t afford graduate school or doctoral studies and are stuck with upwards of 20 grand in student loan debt they took out and used to pay rent and feed their family and kids or buy electronics because they were on welfare or out of work or working minimum wage jobs because they could as tuition is so low. Free tuition should be a mechanism to make classes more efficient and realistic, applicable and streamlined. It should also be a program that works in concert with increase equity in public school funding so students aren’t FORCED into community college because their high schools are so crappy they are basically prisons or adult day care.

  31. Students with strong academic backgrounds are stuck in classes with students who are not prepared or in a position to succeed and they have to help them or deal with them cheating off them. In other words, community college should be free cause it ain’t worth the student loan money and too much time and money is spent mitigating harm and lack of learning in poorly functioning and funded high schools and middle schools. If you have taught in community college, you would see it is like adult day care and many students have NO interest in learning because of traumatic high school experiences or an infectious nihilism.

  32. Low income students deserve FREE tech programs and NO student loan debt for community college.

    1. Well, most, if not all full-time students, are considered low income, due to the fact they are going to school and not working. Also this word, free, I don’t think you quite know what it means…

  33. After destroying entry level jobs through minimum wage hikes, progressives need to railroad the newly out of work somewhere. Useless two year community college programs paid for by the government are a perfect solution: they seemingly keep unemployment down, appear to be pro-education, and allow for another two years of indoctrination and elimination of self-reliance.

  34. “The president is now touring the country promoting the plan, calling it ‘an idea whose time has come.'”

    See, this is why complaining about BHO going to Alaska and rerenaming mountains or playing golf or swimming in infinity pools on the taxpayer’s dime is such a foolish idea. When he’s not engaging in small-scale annoyances like these, he busies himself searching out truly terrible ideas to support.

    I’m going to be a terrible libertarian and suggest that, in addition to their generous compensation packages, every elected and appointed official in the federal (*and CA state) government be gifted 100 bottles a year of their favorite expensive liquor as well as 364 vacation days. I suspect the economic benefit of having a bunch of state agents drunk and on perpetual vacation will outweigh the costs by a factor of at least 100.

  35. Common core sucks. Obama sucks at his core. Math is math ! Turns CC programs into the VA. Crappy service, can’t get to the subsidy offered because too many applicants not enough Community College openings. Frigging idiots in charge.

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