Editorial: Be cheap, not free

North Wind Staff

Comic Credit: Dorsey Sprouls

Early this month, President Obama proposed to make the first two years of community college free for everyone. The $60 billion plan is proposed to be paid for by the federal government over a period of 10 years.

While there is no shortage of articles applauding Obama’s plan for a “free” education, some even going so far as to call the plan “elegant,” many have failed to mention how it will be paid for.

We know deep down where it comes from. Instead of calling it “free” community college, we should be calling it “taxpayer funded” community college.

A great thing about NMU is the variety of degrees and certifications available. The Jacobetti Complex offers an abundance of programs that don’t require four plus years of school and have more job security than many of the bachelor’s programs.

Continuing the practice of the government paying for everything is a detrimental decision. Offering free college will also devalue the two-year experience and make it an extension of high school, which is already taken for granted.

Besides, to make college worthwhile, a student needs to have skin in the game.

Then there’s the issue of unintended consequences of supply and demand.  In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 35.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree under their belts, a 10 percent increase from 1995, though still a minority of people by all accounts. Even so, we’ve all spent nights sweating over whether or not we’ll get a job after graduation.

What will the market look like when, say, 50 percent of Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree?

Every day a new story comes out about how many recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed, because far too many formerly lucrative fields are now saturated.

Free community college is a great concept in theory, but the execution is near impossible, not to mention there are so many paths outside of a traditional four-year degree that can yield success if we’re willing to try.

The bottom line is this: free education is a wonderful notion but no one values something that is free.