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White House free college plan is insufficient

President Barack Obama’s free community college plan unlikely to pass Congress due to lack of funds

Cartoon+that+appears+in+the+March+print+edition+of+JagWire%2C+featuring+a+speech+by+President+Barack+Obama+announcing+his+college+plan.
Cartoon that appears in the March print edition of JagWire, featuring a speech by President Barack Obama announcing his college plan.

Cartoon that appears in the March print edition of JagWire, featuring a speech by President Barack Obama announcing his college plan.

Contributed by Junior Jordan Aguon

Contributed by Junior Jordan Aguon

Cartoon that appears in the March print edition of JagWire, featuring a speech by President Barack Obama announcing his college plan.

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College is a financial burden necessary for many jobs in today’s society. Without a degree, it can be hard to reach the upper pay brackets or even be hired to major companies. The atrocious price of college tuition, even at the community college level, shouldn’t prevent someone from receiving a proper education.

To help fight back against rising college prices, President Barack Obama announced his plan for free community college Jan. 8 through the White House website. It spread through social media and the news within minutes, coming under fire by critics because of its obscure nature: stating only that students would have to work for the free college. The truth is, free community college is a great idea and is necessary for the U.S. to move ahead in the world. However, Obama’s plan is anything but helpful and should be sent back to the drawing board immediately.

Colleges and universities hike their prices more and more every year. They pay their headmasters (or presidents) and football coaches way too much and make sure sports are a priority over the education of their students, who struggle through school and are often repaid with debt for the rest of their lives.

In his annual State of the Union address Jan. 20, Obama said that, “America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of G.I.s to college, trained the best workforce in the world. We were ahead of the curve. But other countries caught on. And in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game.”

The president is spot on in his argument for free community college. A college education provides the knowledge required for higher level jobs in areas such as business, technology, science and health care. The United States has fallen behind other nations because it is slow to make the necessary changes that will allow more workers to fuel the forces of industry.

In Tennessee, free community college is already a reality. The state passed the program into law in 2014 and so far it has been successful. According to National Public Radio, tuition of up to two years is paid for through state lottery sales.

Will this idea work on a national level? No, certainly not with the current plan proposed by the White House.

Obama’s plan comes with a price. Those who would receive free community college would have to keep their grades up and graduate college on time.

So, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. This free community college thing might really work. Business leaders are behind it, many Democrats in Congress are behind it and a few Republicans are also behind it.

But what about the cost? Who is going to pay for it?

Just because the plan says its free doesn’t mean it is actually free. It has to be paid for by someone or something. The plan is going to cost an estimated $60 to $80 billion over the next 10 years and the exact sources of the money have not yet been revealed.

As ABC News reported Feb. 6, individual states would be required to cover 40 percent of the cost of the free community college plan. This is a terrible idea. States such as Washington are already overwhelmed with new programs, such as the smaller class sizes enacted by Initiative 1351 following the November 2014 election. The program has no plan for funding and adding a second to the state’s list of things to find money for will become an absolute nightmare for lawmakers and possibly even taxpayers.

But why? Can’t the state just borrow money like the federal government to keep operating? No. The state operates on a balanced budget, which is required by law. Therefore, the state has to find a way to fund all of these programs.

Social programs are great, but with the federal government already so far in debt there has to be a plan in place to pay for it, and it can’t come from the states. The solutions to this problem are even more difficult. The federal government could raise taxes, which would be a great milestone in reducing national debt. This is very unlikely to pass with the current Republican Congress, a party that has traditionally favored lower taxes.

Another solution would be to rework the federal budget in a few years. Good luck on that one; a federal budget hasn’t been passed since 1997. Instead, Congress passes continuing resolutions to keep the government running at current spending levels.

The biggest problem with Obama’s plan is funding, which will be impossible to negotiate with Congress. As a result, the entire plan will crash and burn.

Free community college is a great idea, but it just falls apart when it is put into action. The entire plan proposed by the White House needs to go back to square one. Until a proper funding plan is established, one without tax increases, the program will never see the light of day.

 

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The student news site of Emerald Ridge High School | Puyallup, Washington
White House free college plan is insufficient