NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Making College Free Is Not an Answer

January 20, 2015

President Obama has proposed two years of free community college for students who enroll at least part time and who maintain a GPA of 2.5. The federal government would pick up 75 percent of the tab, while states would contribute to the rest of the cost.

But is it all it's cracked up to be? Andrew P. Kelly is the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute. Writing in Forbes, he says taxpayers should be skeptical of the president's plan.

Kelly says free tuition might boost enrollment numbers, but it's not clear that it will improve graduation rates. At two-year colleges, only 31 percent of full-time, first time community college students graduate within three years. According to Kelly, evidence across different states does not indicate lower costs will bring student success. For example, he notes that while California's community colleges have the lowest tuition in the country (and higher completion rates than the national average), Wisconsin and North Dakota's community colleges have even higher graduation rates, despite tuition costs that are twice and three times that of California's community colleges. And while the president's plan vaguely calls for colleges to implement reforms, Kelly says federal requirements to ensure quality haven't worked in the K-12 sector and are unlikely to work at the community college level.

Another problem with the plan? The government may be paying for education, but that won't reduce education costs. He warns that tuition costs will continue to increase from year to year, meaning that American taxpayers will be on the hook for more money.

Source: Andrew P. Kelly, "Four Reasons To Be Skeptical About Obama's Free Community College Proposal

 

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