Free Community College of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris plan will increase costs for both students and taxpayers.
Fortunately, the The Biden-Harris Promise free community college seems less likely to feature in the final version of the Rebuild Better Act, the $ 3.5 trillion tax and spending plan currently being debated in Congress.
The proposed provision for a tuition-free community college 109 billion dollars in state grants so that students can attend two-year colleges without paying tuition fees. Taxpayers would pay tuition fees from 2023.
Currently, the average sticker price for community colleges in the United States is around $ 3,000. However, the average cost per student is actually close to $ 18,000. Most of the gap is state and local credits and federal grants to institutions. The rest is made up of smaller grants and credits.
Additionally, most students in need of financial aid already receive it through Pell scholarships as well as state and institutional scholarships. Accounting for financial assistance, the average quantity paid by students for tuition and fees in two-year public colleges is – $ 220, which means that many students actually receive more than the cost of attending student aid. The Build Back Better program would primarily benefit those who already bear the relatively modest cost of the community college themselves.
With taxpayers already covering most of the cost of this investment in the form of direct credits and grants, are we seeing the benefits of these drastic community college grants?
Community college completion rate are catastrophic. According to National Center for Education Statistics, only 16.3% of students at two-year institutions graduate within two years, 28.7% graduate within three years, and 34.2% graduate from two-year within four years. These statistics suggest that it might be more beneficial for students to spend those years gaining work experience rather than a degree.
Since the advent of widely available federal grants for higher education from 1965, there have been tuition fee increases without a corresponding increase in access or quality. Additional subsidies under the Build Back Better plan will continue to inflate prices and pass increased costs onto taxpayers.
The free community college will also continue the degree inflation trend. More grants lead to more graduates, but not more skills, which leads to the need for more degrees to differentiate. As Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute explains:
The average university degree has come to represent less and less human capital as university attendance, fueled largely by government aid, has skyrocketed. Exacerbating the situation, employers – who bear none of the costs themselves – have been increasingly able to demand degrees, which have largely become signals of basic attributes, such as persistence, basic intelligence, and a little more … One piece of evidence supporting the signaling hypothesis is an increase in the number of employers requesting college degrees in job advertisements that previously did not require the degree and for which the skills required seem largely unchanged.
The “free” community college will exacerbate this phenomenon. For example, while a high school diploma was sufficient for 26.2% of jobs specializing in human resources in 2004 it was only 8% sufficient in 2015. Most human resources specialist positions now require applicants to have some form of higher education, although the duties of the position remain largely unchanged.
If the data on community colleges is not enough, we have the example of a free college in Europe foreshadowing what will likely happen here in the United States In Europe, “free” higher education funded by taxpayers has resulted in overcrowding, reduced access and fewer resource studies per student. Institutions improve with increased competition, not by government intervention and subsidies.
Rather than rebuilding the bureaucracy with massive new federal subsidies from an underperforming higher education sector, Congress should move in the opposite direction: policymakers should cut federal subsidies to higher education across all jurisdictions. domains, which will reduce costs and make room for more efficient free market financing solutions.
Americans need options to learn employable skills. Choosing the winners and losers in higher education by dramatically increasing government grants is not the way to achieve this goal.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free community college.
This piece originally appeared in The daily signal