Saturday, 16 April 2016

'Free College'?

In recent days, there's been a fair amount of chatter on "free college".  Basically, the idea goes with a number of groups hoping to influence the Democratic Party and make at least the first two years of college "free".

The cost?  It differs depending on who you hear the talk.  The best I could tell is that it's in the plus-up range of 65 billion dollars.

There are five essential problems with this idea.

1.  There are hundreds of thousands of kids today....enrolled in some program and getting a marginalized certificate, and the best they can do with this is be the shift manager of some car rental shop at the local airport.  It's a job that used to be run by a guy from 1960s who graduated with a high school diploma (that's it....nothing else).  So the kid is now making $28,000 a year as the shift manager, and the value of the two-year degree they attained?  Mostly worthless.  But they've convinced themselves that this was the only way ahead.

You have to ask yourself if you want to really pay for an education for some kid who simply has a certificate of two years of college and it doesn't really mean much or have sufficient value for the funds exhausted.

2.  If we were talking about a two year period where you went through nursing school and really had value in the world of economics, then this would be a great idea.  But that's maybe three-percent of the crowd in some higher education program.  The rest of these professions?  They are of limited or marginal value.

Do we really need a bunch of kids jumping into business school for two years?  Do we really need to fund a number of kids on some social lifestyle education deal for two years?

3.  A number of research organizations have reported in the past decade on the kids wrapping up high school and not being prepared or capable of handling college.  How would we handle this issue?  Add a whole extra year of college prep to get such-and-such kid ready for his free two years of college?

4.This unfairness of cost across the spectrum, where college tuition at X-public community college is $3,000 and one state away, the Y-public community college is $4,100.  Or how about public four-year university A where one single year of tuition is $9,000 and one state away you have university B where the single year of tuition is $11,500.  What if the kid who sits in Maryland wants his free education in California?

5.  If you led off with the talk of free college for two years.....you can imagine the talk within four years.....of four years, or six, or eight.....all being free.  Why limit freeness?

My suggestion?  Open high schools up to the simplicity of wrapping up your high school situation by the end of the tenth-grade and a test.  If you pass.....you exit high school and proceed on.  In this case....you offer any kid who leaves with a certificate with two years of free community college in the local area.  If they test out in the 11th-grade?  Fine....one year of free community college.  You'd have a chance to downsize most high schools and get kids interested in the idea of achieving more and saving the state some money.