When it comes to President Obama’s proposal of free community college for all Americans, middle-class Americans should just say no.
Last week, the Obama administration announced the plan, which would make any college student who goes to community college part-time and maintains a 2.5 GPA eligible for a free ride for two years.
But this isn’t about offering a helping hand to struggling Americans who would have no other way to attend college. Low-income students already can use Pell Grants to pay for community college.
So the proposal would primarily benefit middle-class and affluent students. That’s a problem. Why is the federal government — already deep in debt — subsidizing education for students who personally or through their families can afford it?
Yes, it would be good if more Americans went to college. But because something is good doesn’t mean the government should intervene. As shown by test scores of the public school system and the Head Start preschool program, government spending and management don’t correlate with success.
Furthermore, a college education is a good investment for those who complete college. Students who, along with their families, pay for their own education will reap the benefits as they generally make more than their non-college-educated peers. They also tend to value more the things they’ve earned and not simply been given.
As a teen, I heard about the importance of saving for college — and I did, setting aside money earned from babysitting and taking orders at Burger King. When I was tempted to skip a class later in college, I’d usually think about how much my education was costing — and go.
No, I couldn’t cover most of the costs of my college education. But receiving a gift from your parents is different from receiving a government handout. I knew the amount had come out of decades of hard work. I was grateful — and I felt accountable.
A recent photo from the Humans of New York blog showed a woman in a worker’s uniform, standing in Grand Central. “After I finish my shift at the bakery, I start my shift at Starbucks. I work 95 hours per week at three different jobs,” she told the photographer. “One of my sons graduated from Yale, and I have two more children in college. And when they finish, I want to go to college, too.”
You can bet her children won’t forget her sacrifice. But if her kids were just given a government gift, would they appreciate their education as much?
Government does some things well. But making a college education an entitlement for the middle class and rich isn’t one of them.
Originally published in USA Today.