Why Obama's 'America's College Promise' Is a Bad Idea

The President is expected to announce in his State of The Union Address tonight a plan to make community college free. It's called "America's College Promise," and while that might be welcome news for community college students around the country, it's another example of wasteful government spending. Where is the money going to come from? As the saying goes, 'Nothing in life is free."

The White House said the program, which could involve about 9 million participants, will cost $60 billion in federal spending over 10 years and another $20 billion from states that opt in. Under the plan, 75 percent of the program's funding will come from federal dollars while states cover the remaining 25 percent.

The national debt now exceeds $18 trillion and continues to spiral out of control. Here's a critical thinking news flash for the President: We're broke. Actually, we're beyond broke and we can't afford to do this. Our President loves to conjure up these wonderful sounding ideas without thinking them through -- and without giving serious consideration to the fiscal consequences that would result to the American people as a whole.

Ironically enough, when Obama was running for office in 2008, he condemned then-President George Bush for adding $4 trillion to the national debt, calling it "unpatriotic" and "irresponsible." Under the Obama administration, the national debt has increased almost $8 trillion.

Beyond the economics of it, what message are we sending students? Handing them a free education on a platter reinforces entitlement. They think, "I can have it for nothing and don't have to work for it." What kind of lesson is that? What values does that teach?

The average yearly cost of community college is $3,800. While that might seem like a lot for a struggling college student, the reality is it's a bargain for a college education. $3,800 is not an exorbitant amount of money. Why not make the students hold down a part-time job and pay it off? Why stick the American people with the debt and raise our taxes? For a country that's usually considered capitalist, our leadership sure has some socialist ways of wanting to do things.

As it is, many community college students don't respect their education. Less than half of students who enter a community college graduate or transfer to a four-year college within six years, according to a report called "Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation's Future." If these community college students aren't serious when paying for their education, imagine how their perspective will deteriorate when it's free? And as a result, the graduation rate will continue to decline.

Furthermore, the President's thinking on the value of a college education is skewed. He said, "Higher education is the key to getting a good job that pays a good income and ... ensures you're always employable." Tell that to the millions of people barely earning $50,000 a year or found themselves out of work in recent years. Indeed, formal education has a place and is the right path for some, but it's not the answer to building a financial empire for most, and doesn't hold the weight it once did. I personally attended a community college and found it to be an exceptional learning experience. I wouldn't say that it gave me the knowledge and skills to stake my claim on the world and bring in the big bucks.

The bottom line: the government needs to stop spending money it doesn't have. It's time to get our fiscal house in order before it's too late. Borrowing money, printing more money and adding to the national debt is just plain irresponsible. Giving our kids a free ride without having to do something in exchange for a free education is not only a bad idea in the short term, it continues to reinforce the entitlement mentality that plagues so many in our younger generations today. Thankfully, Obama's "America's College Promise" won't become official anytime soon, and would face many hurdles from a Republican-led congress.