Sunday, February 28, 2010

Free College Education Not A Right

I have three children in college. College is not cheap. But they are not going to private schools with expenses in the $40k-S60k range per year. They are going to state universities. But they are getting their education in the fields they chose.

My wife and I agreed we would cover their in-state tuition, they would have to handle everything else. That means they must work and go to school. I know, we are so cruel. However, they have it much better than I did.

I had zero financial aid for college from my parents. But I was still able to fund an undergraduate BS degree and then an MBA. Why? Because I wanted it and figured out a way to achieve it.

It was not because my parents did not want to help; it was because they literally did not have the money. They never graduated from college; they did not have the interest nor the family tradition. On my maternal side, there were no college graduates -- mainly a blue-collar heritage. On my paternal side, higher education was encouraged by my grandfather but it had to be on his terms -- in architecture or engineering. Anything else would be on his sons' pocketbook, not his. My dad did not favor either field.

In my immediate family, higher education was not discussed nor was it expected. My parents struggled like most do, living for the most part from pay check to pay check. We lived in a modest three-bedroom home with five children. We had one used car. We never went on vacation; just to our grandparents' homes (which I loved). Although I had friends whose families had more money, this lifestyle did not bother me that much. But I figured there could be more. And I proved that there was.

When I heard President Obama's State of the Union this past January, I questioned his sounds-good-on-the-surface-but-pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain populism on higher education: this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.
Price tag: in the trillion dollar range. He left that out.

If everyone goes to college, who will do the jobs that do not require college degrees? Illegal immigrants? Not everyone one is cut out for college. Many could not cut it in high school. A free college tuition break to one that does not want to pay the price to earn a degree does not make for a good public investment.

Only a fool goes broke trying to get a college degree. An Ivy League-like education is the exception and not the rule. There are many lower cost options for advanced education. For some, it is a trade school or two-year community college. For others it is a state school. If you want an advanced degree, it is not the taxpayers responsibility to cover this cost. There are means to get those degrees. They might not be the most appealing but if one has the desire, it can be achieved.

Pell Grants and loan options have been around for decades. I used them when I could. I earned a Pell Grant for part of my undergraduate studies. I took out loans for my MBA. I also got academic scholarships to help subsidize the expenses in both cases.

What I dislike about Obama's approach to most things is that he believes government is the answer. I believe it is the problem. Everything he tries to do makes its beneficiaries a slave of the state. He is first a foremost a statist. It is core to everything he does. It is not for me or for America.


Rachel Hauck said...

Great post as it so mirrors my own life. Same thing. LOVED those grandparent vacations. :)

Especially when the cousins came too.

I worked my way through college, built up a bundle of loans -- which I paid back.

Like you, I wanted it. Dad was one of the brothers that went to college and he encouraged us to go, but I'm the only one of the 5 kids who finished. Pete and Joel are trying now.

But when we were in college, Jeff, it was so much easier to get help. Even Dad noted how much harder it was to get aid for Pete and Beka when they wanted to go.

That's why we need LESS government in our college system. The truth is, middle class kids will get left out of this "more education now" gov't boon doggle.

But worse? What jobs will they do when the graduate if we keep exporting them overseas? If the economy isn't fixed in a way to encourage start up businesses or expansion, a guy with an MBA will be asking, "can I take your order?"

I'm so tired of the platitudes.


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