Proposed Free Community College in Seattle Will be Anything But

Past programs have blown budgets and funneled money to well-off students


Student with money

No candidate ever lost an election by promising voters too much free stuff, something Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan is banking on with her proposal for tuition-free community college.

Durkan—a former U.S. Attorney and one of two candidates competing for Seattle's November mayoral elections—unveiled her "Promise Seattle" program Monday. The proposal actually included two remarkble promises: two years of free community college for any Seattle high school graduate at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Durkan says her goal is to get more low-income and minority students into post-secondary education. "We need to ensure students from all economic backgrounds, and from every neighborhood in Seattle, have the chance to earn a credential, certificate or degree."

Free community college is becoming a popular promise among members of a certain political class. Four states having passed such schemes: Tennessee was the first in 2014; Oregon followed the next year. Rhode Island and New York passed community college giveaways in 2017, but have yet to implement them.

If these examples hold true, the benefits of Promise Seattle will accrue mostly to the city's wealthiest students, while proving to be anything but "free."

That's because promise programs offer tuition on a "last dollar" basis, meaning their subsidies don't begin to flow until after students have collected the federal and state aid for which they're eligible. State and federal aid programs already cover most of the cost of attending a community college for low-income students. Their wealthier counterparts are the real beneficiaries.

Promise Oregon is a case-in-point.

According to a 2016 review by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, students whose family income qualifies them for full federal and state grants would get $284 in Promise tuition assistance per term. Students whose family incomes disqualify them from state and federal aid get $1,084 per term.

The same report found that the Promise Oregon spent only 7.9 percent ($860,000) of its funding on students expecting no assistance from their families. Meanwhile, 60 percent of Promise Oregon funds ($6.6 million) went to those students who're expected to receive over $8,673 in yearly family support—much more than the average tuition cost for an Oregon community college.

Fifty three percent of Promise Oregon recipients were wealthy enough to be disqualified for federal Pell grants. The number is 47 percent for Tennessee's Promise Scholarships. Expect Durkan's proposal to follow the same pattern.

Durkan's suggestion that the program could be run without tax increases is also questionable. Her outline suggests the program could be funded by revenue from a couple of Seattle's other recent bad ideas, including its soda tax and fees from the $54 billion ST3 light rail expansion.

That could be enough, but only if the free tuition project stays within the suggested budget caps, something other Promise programs have failed to do.

Spending on Promise Oregon has escalated, from $10 million for the 2016-2017 academic year to $40 million for 2017-2018. Even with that four-fold boost in funding, the program is still $8 million short of covering all applicants, requiring the Oregon legislature to at last means-test the program.

While the evidence suggests nothing Durkan is promising is really free, it also suggests that hasn't stopped taxpayers from believing in and voting for it.

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  1. I feel like less people need to be going to post-secondary education not more.

    1. Yes, at this point, ‘free education’ and ‘worthless education’ are synonymous in my mind. The goal is to put more minorities into ‘How to balance your checkbook 101’ at zero cost.

  2. No candidate ever lost an election by promising voters too much free stuff…

    I think Bernie might have missed that sweet spot.

    1. The Russians sabotaged Bernie. Democracy was usurped. This is well documented.

      1. This is because the Russians believed Bernie’s beliefs in socialism were to moderate.
        Let that be a lesson to him and anyone else who runs for public office.

      2. NO.
        It was the Clintonian Oligarchic Family that defeat the Bern.
        The Ruskkies sabotaged the Clintonians.

    2. Well he would have probably won the whole thing were it not for that cheating c*nt.

      And honestly, I think I would have rather him won. At least gridlock would have still resulted but then the horde would not somehow try to blame capitalism for the coming implosion.
      I fear the squirrel will be associated with capitalism and the next president will make Obama look like Heyek in comparison.

      You ever notice that idiots never question government’s role in destroying everything?

  3. It’s the thought that counts.

    That’s what I tell my 4 year old even though I know that is bullsh*t.

  4. Can you imagine a national program of free community college like Obama proposed?

    1. I can imagine quite a lot.

      *stares into the abyss*

    2. Can you imagine how well Obama’s free healthcare is going to function?

      Or are we already there?

  5. tuition-free community college.

    Tuition-free or free?

  6. The price has gone up since I was attending, but in California, community college are HEAVILY subsidized. All I paid at the time was $50 a class plus books. For a middle class student, that might as well have been free. It was basically high school with ash trays. No need to even bother your parents about the tuition, just grab it from the money you made mowing lawns or babysitting. A thousand and one local, state, and Federal programs were there to cover that tiny fee and book for poorer students. Everyone who wanted to go to community college could do so.

    But it was never advertised as “free”. That may be part of the problem with those other states. Once you say “free” then all sorts of stuff become entitlements. Like the textbooks. And in fact, part of the meteoric rise in textbook prices is due to students (the consumer) not having to pay for them. All these state and Federal grants now pay for them when they used to be up to the students to buy. So publishers stick on any old price because they know no one will quibbler over it. No more used textbook stores because no one sees any need for them.

    1. My English 1c teacher had 8 books… and used none the following semester. So they didn’t sell for anything

      Such a scam

    2. I remember the outrage when tuition in the Coast Community College District went from $6/unit to $13.

  7. RE: Proposed Free Community College in Seattle Will be Anything But

    Not to worry here.
    Be rest assured Comrade Bernie Saunders will make up any deficits out of his own pocket should they occur.
    He’s like that.

  8. Antifa says………………….

  9. Clearly college is not making politicians smarter.

    Unless someone wants to college enough to secure the funds, it is not always best to send people to college jsut to send people to college.

  10. GradeScout helped me to graduate college. I mixed study and working process. It was really great time!
    So if you want to save your time for more important things, you are welcome!

    1. Do you make lots of money working from home?

    2. But I don’t want to be a part time hooker.

  11. While the evidence suggests nothing Durkan is promising is really free, it also suggests that hasn’t stopped taxpayers from believing in and voting for it.

    You mean free shit sells? I wonder if anyone else has caught on to that? /sarc

  12. We already have free community college in Washington State. All you have to do is be ambitious enough in high school to take advantage of it.

    Oh, but I guess that privileges the children of all the Indian and SE Asian immigrants too much…

  13. The Oregon Promise (not Promise Oregon) has become a lie. Originally they told us that all high school graduates with at least a 2.5 gpa would receive two years of tuition at Oregon community colleges.
    Just two years after the promise started they have changed it to a “need” based grant.
    So it has become yet another redistribution of wealth scheme.
    Who knew?

  14. The college/university scam needs to vanish. There are plenty of jobs which require degrees which really shouldn’t, such as software development jobs. In the 21st century, people have easy access to more information than ever via the Internet, and that includes reliable information and information about what resources (such as books) universities use. You can not only learn to do specific tasks, but also give yourself an in-depth understanding of the theories about what you’re studying.

    Foolish and lazy employers use the fact that someone doesn’t have a degree as a reason to throw out their applications, resulting in many promising candidates being overlooked. Many ‘programmers’ with degrees can’t even write a FizzBuzz program (doing so is extremely simple even for someone who only has basic knowledge about programming) when asked to, which provides evidence that the standards of the vast majority of schools are severely lacking. I would think that autodidacts – people who have shown that they have the desire and willpower to learn on-the-fly without any coddling – would at least be considered. Employers need to (or should) test the abilities of any potential employees anyway, so it’s better to find more sensible reasons to toss out resumes if there are too many, even if the process is simply random.

    1. So people shouldn’t confuse schooling with education; that’s a mistake I often see. The mere fact that someone has a degree does not indicate that they are educated. Likewise, the fact that someone does not have a degree does not mean that they are uneducated. Truly intelligent people will attain their educations with or without schooling.

      Colleges and universities are already filled with fools who have no drive or aptitude to attain real education. As a result, standards remain fairly low in an effort to collect as much money from these morons as possible. The overwhelming majority of these colleges and universities are only marginally better than high schools. Much of this is due to government subsidies. This ‘free college’ nonsense will only exacerbate the problem.

      It’s a shame that our society does not recognize or value real education. Otherwise, such low standards would never be tolerated and schooling would not be treated as a prerequisite for being educated.

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