Are We Prepared for President Obama’s Free Community Colleges?



Earlier this month, President Obama proposed reducing the cost of community colleges to “zero.” Mr. Obama said: “I want to make it free.”

As the Washington Post suggested in a subsequent editorial, “investing in education is a smart long-term strategy” when addressing income inequality and American competitiveness. The Post proposes means testing community college assistance to prevent the program from becoming a “new middle class entitlement” and adopting strategies like increasing Pell Grants that could be used for undergraduate students at four-year institutions as well.

Let’s divide the implications of a free community college into two categories: the philosophical and the practical.

On a philosophical level, the President’s goal to make a community college education free for Americans is ambitious and laudatory. In doing so, Mr. Obama makes an important policy statement about his own education legacy. His proposal is clear and unambiguous in principle. Further, Mr. Obama’s proposal outlines…

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