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In an attempt to circumvent Congress and move the free college agenda forward, The White House will launch a $100 million grant program for free community college tuition. The new program, America’s Promise Grants, was unveiled last week by Vice President Biden in a speech at the Community College of Philadelphia.
The America’s Promise Grants program offers $100 million in grants designed to create and expand “partnerships between community colleges and other training providers, employers, and the public workforce system to create more dynamic, tuition-free education and training programs for in-demand middle and high-skilled jobs across the country,” according to the White House.
These grants will be administered by the Department of Labor and funded by H1-B application fees. H1-B visas are given to skilled foreign workers, typically for STEM occupations.
According to a statement released by The White House, the costly grant program is the least expensive part of the community college mandate. The statement includes several additional budget proposals:
The new community college tuition grant program and its subsequent budget proposals are not only expensive, but also impractical.
The grants program is investing in a community college system with a declining education value. Obama’s program does little to address low graduation rates or poor academic standards. The average American college student reads at a 7th grade level; the reading level of a community college student would likely be even lower.
The community college graduation rate is continuing to decline; only 19.5% of students graduate within three years.
As for being a cost-efficient stepping-stone to a four-year institution, plans to transfer are often unsuccessful as only 15% of community college students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.
Even if America’s Promise Grants did lead to higher graduation rates, adding an additional free two years of education to our ineffective K-12 system would only result in an ineffective K-14 system.
Unsurprisingly, remedial courses are common among community college students with 68% of students enrolling in at least one remedial course during a period of six years. 59% of community college students are referred to remedial math upon entrance.
The America’s Promise Grants Program is intended to produce graduates capable STEM workers. This is a lofty goal when most community college students are enrolled in remedial math.
The $100 million scheme doesn’t make much fiscal sense either. Almost exactly one year ago, the Obama Administration proposed America’s College Promise Act, a nationwide program for free community college tuition. Out of the $80 billion combined federal and state investment for America’s College Promise Act, only $32 billion would result in a degree or credential.
America’s Promise Grants would likely result in a similar outcome, especially considering the high student loan default rate. Community college students have the highest default rate, with 20.6% of students defaulting on their student loans within three years.
Community college isn’t very expensive; the average cost of community college tuition is only $3,300 per year. Therefore, the high default rate signifies a problem that is much larger than rising tuition costs.
The market has already indicated that community college produces a low return on investment. The free market can also determine the value of a degree. As Neil Seifring, Director of Strategic Initiatives at FreedomWorks, pointed out:
“The market should be deciding the value of higher education. It should not be dictated by a federal government that is over $18 trillion in debt and unable to manage its own finances, let alone that of a national free college tuition program.”
The America’s Promise Grants Program is just another instance of the government spending money we don’t have for programs we don’t need.