Biden’s Next Bad Idea for Higher Education

< div class="vc_column tdi_68_682 wpb_column vc_column_container tdc-column td-pb-span12" >/ * custom css */. tdi_68_682 Now that President Biden has revealed his unilateral strategy to move more than a half a trillion dollars in student debt to Americans, the majority of whom neither went to college nor secured a student loan, you ought to brace yourself for what's next on his program. At the end of the White House press statement about loan "forgiveness," Biden guarantees to restore his effort to enact his "Free Community College for All" program. He'll be asking taxpayers to spend for another bad idea.

Neighborhood colleges have had a tough time lately. Since 2012, their registrations have dropped more than a third, to 4.9 million students in 2020 from 7.5 million in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Some of the President's greatest fans work at community colleges, including First Lady Jill Biden and countless members of federal government labor unions. It's great politics for him to bolster his allies at those institutions.

So, he's decided the best method to achieve his objective is just to have everybody go to a 13th and 14th grade. I expect we need to at least be grateful that, this time, he isn't totally circumventing the Congress, or a minimum of not yet.

What could be so wrong with including 2 more years to our public K-12 system? Plenty, as outlined in the Defense of Freedom Institute's paper, Free College or False Promise.

The problem is not whether basic college should be "complimentary"-- but rather, who should spend for it. Several states already cover community college tuition for all or the majority of their trainees. Education reformers and the majority of conservatives can be typically encouraging of that technique. Since states need to have balanced budgets, they tend to be more disciplined in weighing the tradeoffs between spending on education, health care, and lots of other government expenditures. When states choose to purchase neighborhood colleges, they have carefully weighed their true influence on regional economic productivity.

Of all the choices offered for assisting students go to community college, the Biden approach is most likely the worst, because it offers direct gifts from the federal government to local institutions. Historically, federal aid has gone to trainees, not institutions, so that schools will have the incentive to satisfy the trainee's requirements. Under the Biden design, those schools will move their attention to satisfying the requirements of D.C. politicians.

Naturally, the federal government will add strings to institutional financing. Some of those strings sound affordable-- such as requiring neighborhood colleges to align their curriculum with local financial requirements-- however they can be a source of mischief. In fact, colleges already have every incentive to fulfill local economic needs. A lot of pernicious would be requirements that local institutions support the cultural standards of D.C. elites, paralleling what we see our national teacher-union leaders supporting.

The nation's thousand or so neighborhood colleges need aid, simply not the Biden strategy's sort of assistance. In spite of their registration decreases, community colleges are still where one in 5 high school trainees pick to go to. (More than half do not take a college path out of high school.) Of newbie, full-time neighborhood university student, just 17% complete their degrees within the prescribed 2 years. Over 6 years, the graduation rate increases to just 35%. These are issues that need to be fixed prior to Congress tries to double or triple neighborhood college enrollment. Otherwise, policymakers are asking taxpayers to flush away enormous amounts for "free" college that seldom leads to a degree or better task prospects.

Part of the issue is that many of today's high school graduates are simply not gotten ready for college-level work, thanks to our inefficient K-12 system. About two-thirds of neighborhood university student are needed to take remedial courses to discover what they ought to have learned in high school. This isn't simply a community college issue. According to the College Board, just 43 percent of students taking the SAT achieved ratings suggesting college readiness.

The secret to repairing our education and labor force problems is not to toss federal dollars at including 13th and 14th grades to our under-performing K-12 system, hoping in some way that will enhance student outcomes. The response lies in reimagining our one-size-fits-all education assembly line and changing it with a system that offers option, customization, and value for students and instructors. Including two more grades to our damaged system and funding it federally would be the incorrect direction. It will only make enhancing education in America harder.

Jim Blew is a cofounder of the Defense of Freedom Institute. He was Assistant Secretary of Education throughout the administration of Secretary Betsy DeVos.

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