You Get An Associate's and You Get An Associate's!

There's no such thing as a free education. Even if the President claims it is so.

Pellissippi State in Knox County
Pellissippi State Community College in Knox County, Tennessee
So, President Obama was in my part of the world today.

"Free community college for all" was the message.

Under Obama's proposal, Americans would receive two years of community college tuition at no cost to themselves. Essentially, the administration is suggesting we add another two-years to the high school curriculum in the United States.

"Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today," Obama said at Pellississippi State Community College, a nice little campus about 20-minutes from your author's home.

This Ain't Tennessee's Plan

Obama touted his free community college plan
"It's not just for kids,. we also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits."

The model that the President is suggesting would leave the federal government to pick up the majority of the cost (75%), leaving the states to pick up the remaining costs.

Obama has suggested this model is based on something called Tennessee Promise.

"Students who started at community colleges during their first two years and then go on to a four-year institution, they essentially get their first half of their bachelor's degree for free," Obama said. "People who enroll for skills training will graduate already ready to work and they won't have a pile of student debt."

That's a program that covers tuition at community colleges for all students in the state. However, there is one significant difference. In Tennessee, the money for these scholarships has come largely from the state's lottery revenue. A tax I don't have to pay unless I elect to buy a losing lottery ticket.

Instead, the federal plan mandates that I subsidize the education of some 18-year-old so he or she can pursue a degree that may or may not benefit society, be profitable in the long-run to the individual student, and might not even be completed successfully.

It's Not Community College I Oppose

I don't have a problem with community college. In fact, I think there are a ton of two-year degrees that are an outstanding choice and investment for 18-year-olds out there.

Electricians, welders and other positions like that are in high demand and command wages that certainly rival --- if they do not surpass --- what I'm paid with a graduate degree.

So, why oppose what so many in my generation believe so strongly in?

We Don't Use What We Already Have

We have Americans who don't take advantage of the high school education they get for free now. Further, look at the number of low-income families that are eligible for Pell Grants that would cover tuition already but either don't have the intellectual capacity or the drive to take advantage of those benefits.

Some argue this will help the middle class --- those students who aren't currently eligible for Pell Grants because their families are too wealthy.

Instead, I argue this merely sets the bar lower for the middle class and teaches poor lessons about the cost of education, self-development and encourages settling for less than full achievement of potential.

Today's Lesson: Return On Investment

One of the hardest decisions a lot of college students make is the selection a major field of study. It's not easy and frankly, it's not supposed to be.

By giving two years of college for free, we're taking return on investment out of the equation for a lot of students. Degrees with relatively low-income potential like philosophy, poetry, English and others are now a lot more palatable. After all, instead of four years of debt to get a job that pays $25,000 annually, you now only have two years worth of debt. 
At the same time, the degree itself is still only worth $25,000 each year and doesn't truly help the country move forward in manufacturing or anything else that will help the nation compete in the global economy.

Entitlements: Start 'Em Early

Thanks to Obamacare, we're getting really good at relying upon someone else for a lot of what we consider necessities. In this case, most of us consider it the government. In actuality, it's the working class citizen that's paying taxes that is paying for the healthcare.

This community college proposal is no different. 

Instead of taking the risk of student loans yourself or working a job to pay for tuition, students are being taught to suckle on the teat of government to get two years paid for. At this point, there's no reason to believe this two-years of tuition will be earned --- it's simply given by the government with no repercussions for students who don't finish with a degree. 

In theory, you could get your tuition covered by the government to study philosophy, live in an apartment paid for by student loans, eat thanks to food stamps, and then graduate into unemployment and remain on government benefits as you start a family that can rely upon the government to meet all their needs --- all the while they're not contributing to the bottom line.

Final Exam

My biggest fault in this plan comes in the funding. Plainly, we don't know the details yet but it's clear federal money will be used. That means Americans, like me, who are still paying off student debt of their own will be forced to subsidize the education of others.

There are lessons taught coming up through the education system the way it is today. Whether student loan institutions are predatory is certainly debatable but if we don't allow our young adults to learn those lessons at that point in their life --- when will they?

The answers to developing the future of the economy in the United States won't be solved by giving out two years of college to anybody who wants it like it's some sort of Oprah giveaway. Instead, the answers are much more difficult and will require a cultural shift. A shift away from a mindset of entitlements and toward the integrity and reward that comes with hard work, dedication, and taking a chance on oneself that ultimately pays off.