The other day, I was knocked out of a deep and peaceful sleep by a text message alert from a friend begging me to help her with an English Literature assignment. After rubbing my eyes and rereading the text, I weighed my options and came to the inevitable conclusion that I could:
A.) Hurl my iPhone across the room and try to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to buy a new one and I almost took out my TV the last time I did that.
B.) Respond with “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number. My name is Achmed.”
C.) Force myself to wake up and agree to help my friend with her paper so that she won’t fail her class.
While brushing my teeth, I could only think one thing: “Why did I ever tell this person that I have a bachelors in journalism and English?” I was also thinking, “Man, I wish I was still in bed.” My friend wanted to meet at her office. She would take her lunch break and we would have an hour and a half to work on the paper at a nearby Applebee’s. An hour and a half, she said. Entrees and English. What could be better, right? Well, my friend works at a physicians office and spends around ten hours every day answering phones, scheduling and rescheduling patient appointments, coordinating medical staff schedules, speaking with local pharmacies about patient medications and generally performing every duty required of a slave to the medical administrative workforce of America. Anyway, I knew we would probably never escape the insanity of her work environment long enough to have an actual lunch meeting, particularly since her office was under-staffed that day. And I was right. I was there a grand total of five minutes before she told me that we would need to meet tomorrow after she leaves work.
Despite being frustrated that I drove 20 minutes for nothing, I was struck and somewhat impressed by my friend’s ability to juggle a hectic ten hour per day job with a full load of university-level college classes. Not to mention still finding time to have a social life.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard that President Obama has proposed making community college free for all Americans. (When is he not giving something away for free?) It happened last Friday in Tennessee during one of his rather droll speeches — a total yawn-fest — in which he unveiled the $60 billion plan and asked for Congressional support. Apparently, Obama believes that community college should be as universal as high school. In theory, the plan would cover just enough tuition for students who keep their grades up to receive a two-year associate’s degree or half of a bachelor’s degree. Three-quarters of each student’s tuition would be covered by the federal government, while the remaining costs would be passed on to the states.
So, let me get this straight, Mr. President. Our country is over $18 trillion in debt and in addition to free healthcare, welfare assistance, cell phones, food stamps and unfunded liabilities like Medicare and Social Security, you now want to hand out free associate’s degrees to students who can “keep their grades up.” We can’t even balance the federal budget, sir, despite tax increases that you yourself approved and implemented. Your social welfare programs are suffocating our economy and yet you want to slap the American taxpayers with a new $60 billion burden? Smart.
Economics aside, this whole thing is pure idiocy for several other reasons. It’s been a few years since I was in college, but I can still remember the level of hard work that went into it — particularly when you’re juggling a job with your academic responsibilities. Remember my friend who I mentioned earlier? She’s experiencing the values of hard work combined with academic life. She and millions of students like her are working jobs to pay off their student loans, help their parents pay off the loans and to pay for things like textbooks, lab fees and other miscellaneous expenditures that come up with nearly every college-level course. You always appreciate something more when you have to work hard for it.
Imagine what would happen when students are suddenly told that the only “work” they have to put into their college education is the academic work. Will these students appreciate their degrees as much as if they had to pay for them financially? Maybe. Maybe not. But, when you take a socialistic-entitlement mindset and apply it to a nation’s education system, you end up placing something as valuable and prestigious as a college education on the same level as things like food stamps and cell phones — whether it’s the students or the parents paying for the degree. In effect, you inadvertently cheapen the value of a college education.
Believe it or not, I do understand why so many people, conservatives and liberals alike, support Obama’s proposal. I get that community college is expensive and four-year universities are flat-out unaffordable for many students. But, the vast majority of young people attending community colleges come from affluent families that can afford tuition costs. Subsidizing their education is, quite honestly, a total waste of governmental resources. The low income students who come from poor or middle class families already receive things like Pell Grants and local area scholarships that usually cover all the tuition associated with a two-year associate’s degree at a local community college. Any costs not covered by the grants or scholarships should be the responsibility of the student. Besides, studies have shown that students often perform better academically in college when they have “skin in the game” — when they have to pay for part of the college experience themselves. In fact, students at private college institutions, where tuition is more expensive, actually graduate in higher proportions when compared to students attending less expensive public institutions.
Almost as ridiculous as the cost is the fact that it will likely place even more government requirements, rules and regulations on colleges. To be a part of this so-called program, all community colleges would have to meet certain standards — all of which would be set by the federal government. Am I the only who thinks this could just be Obama’s way of pushing national guidelines and government intervention into our institutions of higher learning as a way of controlling things like curriculums, topics on which professors are allowed to lecture or even professors’ political and religious views? Why not? After all, the government is already in control of middle and high school curriculums. Why not just throw colleges and universities in there too?
Hello, socialistic communism!
Many proponents and supporters of Obama’s plan say that it will help to reduce what they like to refer to as the “skills gap” in the American labor force. Too many Americans lack the skills needed to acquire high-paying jobs, they say. So here’s a great solution: Free college for everybody!
Hey, Mr. President, here’s a novel idea: Instead of whipping up another government-controlled federal assistance program, how about implementing some targeted approaches to reduce the skills gap? Let individual states create and fund their own programs that would provide work scholarships or on-the-job training for high school students in high demand skill areas. Stop trying to make headlines by announcing programs with fancy titles that will do little to actually solve the real problems. And stop trying to bully your way into the world of academia with more government control.
To all of you high school grads and prospective college students out there: Don’t fall for Obama’s “free college” rhetoric. There’s no such thing as “free” college. Someone will be paying for it. And, in this case, it will be Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer. They’ll be taking the hit and so will the American economy. And President Obama will be leaving the historical legacy he’s always envisioned for himself — the audacious and zealous president who successfully transformed America into the full embodiment of the European style welfare state.
Don’t accept the president’s offer or support his plan. Work hard, earn scholarships, apply for grants, study with dedication and passion, drink coffee, eat pizza and enjoy the various aspects of college life without relying on the federal government for a handout. I promise, when you finally walk across that stage, reach out your hand and grasp that diploma, you’ll appreciate and value it so much more.
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