The last thing we need is another entitlement program
By MARK S. SCHWENDAU
Obama’s newest giveaway program proposing a free two-year college education is a bad one.
Presumably he came up with his newest idea to make himself look like a hero, and the GOP and Tea Party to look like zeros. One only needs to look at what is going wrong in college attendance now to see his idea, well-intentioned or not, is going to make a bad situation worse.
College loan debt has now surpassed both credit card debt and auto loan debt. College loan default rates are also rising and Illinois is in the top 10 as one of the worst for college loan default rates. Multiple measures show Illinois not doing well in the area of college attendance and graduation rates. Couple all of this with the fact Illinois now has more new people on food stamps than in new jobs and any thinking person will see the red flags of trouble on the horizon. Illinois now has more people living on entitlements than working! The last thing we need is another entitlement program!
The easiest way for people to understand the problem of college attendees today is with the old expression of, “The Haves” and “The Have Nots.”
“The Haves” have a college education and loan debt and are unable to find employment in their major field of college. They selected a career field where either employment opportunities are limited or highly selective. Perhaps there is a glut of people who have graduated in their same major. No matter, they are not where they need to be for gainful employment to pay down their college loan.
“The Have Nots” have gone to college but have not graduated. One reason was identified by the Obama administration’s Department of Education itself. They determined many students are burning all their college loan money up taking remedial general education courses just to be allowed into 100-level credit courses such as college algebra. College algebra is the number one area of concern with nearly two-thirds of Illinois students entering community colleges not ready for basic college algebra. This has started the debate as to whether algebra should remain the baseline course of American mathematics.
The humorous part of President Obama’s State of the Union Address was when he mentioned the state of Tennessee (Republican-held) and Chicago (held by the Democrats) as two models of what he wants to do. Tennessee was recently awarded the title of “Most Corrupt State in the Union” and Chicago, well, let’s just say the term “Chicago-style politics” is not a term of endearment in America, just like “Governor’s Prison” isn’t a suggested prison name to honor past governors of Illinois. The “Tennessee Promise” sends students to college with the federal government picking up 75 percent of the tab and the state picking up the remainder. Obama’s plan to have state and federal government spend $60 billion over 10 years is a bad one.
A better college affordability idea, which would cost taxpayers far less, would be to imitate the “German model” whereby we would do the following:
Free college – for students entering one-year technical certificate programs absent of general education coursework leading directly to employment opportunities such as truck driving and welding.
Interest-free college loans – for students seeking a two-year college degree having general education coursework leading directly to employment, or transfer to a four-year college degree, in a field with a high rate of employment opportunities thereafter such as nursing or industrial technologists.
A traditional college loan, with interest – for students pursuing their own college path with an attitude of employment be damned!
The Germans believe some people have the ability to succeed in higher education and some are better suited to immediate employment but everybody finds dignity in work. With this basic philosophy, the objective becomes to educate students beyond high school in a two-track system of education.
The only homework the Department of Education would be required to do in the above would be to determine career fields where gainful employment is not just possible but probable after graduation.
There are no free lunches, or college, in life. When it comes to a discussing funding college, the people to do so should be as at least as intelligent as the objective.
Mark Schwendau is an Illinois technology professor/author and philanthropist/volunteer for multiple Illinois Christian charities. This column originally appeared on the website of Reboot Illinois, an independent, nonpartisan operation that encourages citizen engagement in government. (The website is rebootillinois.com/). The article is reprinted with the permission of that group and the author.