Saturday, July 18, 2009

Obama's great education plan

Most parents of college-age students have had the same experience: complete the FAFSA, which is burdensome enough in itself, submit the information, wait for the notification of the expected family contribution, and then try to face the shock. Whatever you thought you could afford to pay, it's not nearly as much as what they tell you you're going to pay. Not even close.

There is a crisis in higher education in the United States. People just can't afford it, and many students graduate with paralyzing levels of debt. What we should do is what many civilized countries do: provide higher education free, or nearly free. We're not going to do that, but we should.

Obama's new proposal is a major step in the right direction. By directing more money to community colleges, the new plan will bring higher education within reach of many who cannot now afford it; direct funds to some of the most motivated students, who are best able to benefit from it; and provide education and training that is directly relevant to the career needs of many students.

Community colleges have never gotten the respect they deserve. Everyone knows a derogatory nickname for the community college in their community: when I was at Michigan State I couldn't tell you how many times I heard Lansing Community College referred to as Last Chance College. What a mistake. Community colleges provide great value for the money, are nimble, and reach nontraditional students who are there not just because it's expected of them, but because they are prepared to get something out of it.

I think this proposal is a great idea. It's also a major campaign promise kept. And if you're a parent or a prospective college student, this proposal builds on a great educational option.


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