Obama’s 2 Years Of Free Community College Education Plan Is Neither Here Nor There.

.busdriverphd1Anura Guruge December 2014 thumbnail
by Anura Guruge

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From the ‘Wall Street Journal’. Click to access.

I know he thinks he is doing the right thing and that this is a step in the right direction, but I fear that it will really not achieve much and cost taxpayers, both at federal and local levels, a bundle.

Free higher education, though it sounds nice to begin with, has implications. I know. My adoptive father was the architect and implementor of free education in Sri Lanka — all the way up to and including universities. I heard the pros and cons, saw what it took to get it realized and watched the results. [My adoptive father being who he was, and like many a politician worldwide, took me out of that system, altogether, and send me to school abroad!] Though university education was free, there were limited seats, and competition was fierce to get in. So in that way it will be very different from Obama’s scheme which will be open to all irrespective of motivation, academic qualifications and suitability. But even with Sri Lanka’s fierce, cut-throat competition (which could, of course be circumvented with connections and bribes) the country ended up, 20 years later, with a surfeit of highly educated youth with not enough suitable jobs. Hence the double decker image above. Real story. One of my cousins told it to me on one of my trips back: “Anu, the problem is we just have way too many graduates who are unemployed. We don’t have enough jobs. It has got crazy. You can’t even apply, these days, to be a bus driver unless you have a good Ph. D.” — and he was NOT joking. Soon after we had unrest and that led to the civil war that lasted 30 years.

Though we are unlikely to see the same levels of unemployment that they had in Sri Lanka, the general principle will be the same. Today we have lots of folks who only have a high school education who are not adequately employed. 10 years after Obama’s plan, if it ever sees the light of day (which I doubt), we will have a lot of folks, now with a 2 year Associate’s Degree, disgruntled because they are still ending up working at Burger King.

Plus a 2 year Community College ‘degree’ is neither here nor there. As I have mentioned before I taught, both graduate and postgraduate classes, at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). More than once I was horrified to find students, with a degree, who had trouble writing a single sentence of English.

Rather than trying to apply lipstick to a pig, we really should first focus on improving academic standards across the board. Huge differences in academic standards between schools and between Colleges. It is no point talking about two free years at Community College if at the end of those two years what the graduate knows or is able to do is really not that different to a high school student from a GOOD HIGH SCHOOL in say New York, Seattle or Austin.

Rather than talking about 2 FREE years, we should instead talk about making all Colleges meaningfully affordable — and I am talking as one who just finished putting two kids through College and have two more to take care of down the road. College tuition fees are a joke. Colleges in the U.S. are not education institutes, they are FOR PROFIT businesses. The now defunct McIntosh College (in NH) never had a ‘.edu’ Web name. It was http://www.mcintosh.com. I always used to say that at least they were being honest. I think all ‘.edu’ URLs should be changed to ‘.com’ — because that is what it is, big, very big business.

So … I am not convinced, but I know that I really have little to worry. Obama is unlikely to be able to get it through Congress in the next two years. But, Hillary might stand a chance!

About Anura Guruge

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