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  • Turning around our higher education system is much more than promising free education
  • Posted By:
  • Tom A.
  • Posted On:
  • 20-Feb-2015
  • Recently, President Barack Obama proposed to offer free education to two-year community colleges. Calling this America’s College Promise, he sees this as a ray of hope to turn around higher education and its impact in our country.

    Realistically speaking however, there is a huge problem with his proposal. Doing this will only make extremely meaningless and expensive, the new “free” associate degrees, just like many of our high school diplomas have become.

    On an average, more than $13,500 per pupil is being spent by the secondary and public elementary schools in America. As compared to two-year colleges, this is more money being spent. This is the kind of “free” most of us cannot afford.

    According to Renaissance Learning, the assessment firm, middle school level finds many average college freshmen even though a historic high of over 80% has been reached in terms of the national high school graduation rate. When we look at the 12th grade public school results, it shows that a little more than one third students are proficient in reading and just one quarter of them in math.

    When we look at the broader picture here, it is pretty scary. Millions of students who have not even mastered the basics are being awarded high school diplomas by public schools. If this is not education stagnation, then what is?

    According to National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, remedial work in math or English or both are needed by three fourths of public two-year college freshmen. Is there any logic in saying that reaching deeper into taxpayer’s wallets or into higher education is going to improve academic quality or affordability?

    Just a little time back, our national debt was a whopping $18 trillion. Our economy continues to be dragged significantly by the massive $1 trillion student debt. Universities and colleges have only been encouraged to increase tuition and fees in response to decades of government financial aid. Is it even worth spending more than $60 billion additionally a year in two year colleges where a degree is earned by one in five students in three years?

    What we need right now in our country is to pin down students with more incentives as this is the only way to make our higher education more affordable. Students must be encouraged to work harder, study and get their degrees on time. Students must be given performance grants directly rather than providing funds to public institutions that are not held accountable for sky rocketing price increases.

    Going a step further, certain eligibility criteria must be stipulated for students in order to qualify for these grants. They must demonstrate their eligibility based on completion of chosen degrees on time and financial need. If not, the said grants will be converted to loans.

    When the situation is like schools, both two and four year, must compete for student associated grants, there will be pressure on them to perform and control costs. Institutions will automatically raise the quality of education and offer generous aid to eliminate the risk of losing students.


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