Recently, President Obama push forward the idea of making community colleges “free” to students. This, supposedly, will give downtrodden students an opportunity to get an education and improve their lot in life.
A nice thought. A nice idea. But again, it does too little and in the wrong place.
First off, I think it’s great that our president is talking about cutting the costs of education and in a roundabout way, talking about cutting down on student loans. But this is another one of those attempts to create savings in an area that is actually not the problem. Community colleges are generally pretty cheap, and if you’re living a normal life, there’s no way that you really can’t pay your way through a community college program. Where the real problem exists is in higher level institutions and in the student loan fiasco that exists in that realm. But as I’m sure you realize, no one is doing anything about the fact that so many people who have student loans are basically screwed for the rest of their lives.
And that’s really the problem they need to address and never will. Instead, what seems to happen is you mention the student debt problems, and you get a sort of Mitt Romney response of “you shouldn’t have taken out the debt if you weren’t planning to pay it back.” Yeah, that’s true, but people took out so much debt to pay for college based on this fantasy that jobs would be prevalent after graduation. And that hasn’t been the case.
So, what should government do?
Well, for one, forgive student loan debt AND then work on making colleges affordable so that people don’t need to take out so much debt. But we’re not doing either one of these. Focusing on community colleges for savings in tuition is like going to a random soda machine and making everything half priced in one place at one time where few people are going to even know it’s happening. If you wanted to make a difference, you go to the original distributor, put all the sodas on an inexpensive rate and then notice as everyone pays less money for soda. Discounting a discounted tuition (which is what community colleges basically are) doesn’t solve anything as no new people are going to be able to pursue education because they’ve already scraped the bottom of the barrel by making those school affordable to anyone who actually has time. If someone can’t afford a community college now, their problems are probably much worse off, meaning they’re focusing on whether or not they should pay the heat bill or the electricity rather than whether or not college is affordable.
What caused the problems of today was that bankers decided that college debt should not be forgiveable, and they made Congress back that up with law. Meanwhile, they allowed themselves to declare bankruptcy if they make stupid financial decisions and had Congress back that up as well. In other words, if you make a stupid mistake like try to get an education, you will never be forgiven for that mistake. If you take billions of dollars of money that you don’t actually own and invest it in blow and hookers, you can declare bankruptcy and five years later you can do it all again. As long as that mindset is part of our dynamic, we’re NEVER going to solve the problems inherent in our system. Mainly because the people who can solve it are benefiting from the problem in the first place. In the end, it all gets paid for by the people who can’t afford to get a good job because their educational goals have stifled any future economic advancement.
So, when I hear a president say he’s REALLY going to solve the student college problem, I need to hear a lot more than “we’re going to trim a few leaves off a tree in hopes of growing a forest.”
And this is coming from someone who actually likes our president. That doesn’t mean he gets a free pass every time he does something like this.