Hillary Clinton announced a plan to make colleges more affordable by infusing higher education with $350 billion in taxpayer subsidies, including free community college tuition. There are many reasons why her strategy, and similar proposals by other Presidential candidates, should be viewed as a gross misallocation of resources.
Foremost is the fact that two-year colleges are the only segment of post secondary education that has done a magnificent job of keeping costs low and within range of all students. Their professors work hard at teaching a large segment of the population whose academic achievement upon arrival is less than many of our four-year college students. Their teaching load is larger, and their administrations smaller than the bureaucracies created at four-year institutions, while their salaries on average are less than their colleagues at the four-year level. Most community college professors teach a minimum of 12 credits, many teach 15 credits, while four-year college professors teach on average nine credits each semesters, with far too many limited to six credits, and even three at some of the most expensive schools. Research is given as the reason for the minimal teaching even though few professors achieve seminal research worthy of reduced teaching. By comparison, the typical secondary high school teacher handles some 20 to 24 hours of teaching each week.
Two-year colleges do receive financial assistance from the state and local community level, along with aid and loans given by the federal government to all qualified students. This aid, combined with greater efficiency, results in much lower out-of-pocket costs compared to four-year colleges and universities. As we all know, with tax support from any level comes control. While state and local control of community colleges is present because of tax dollars, it is manageable control because of its proximity. Federal largess is of a different variety. Its faceless and bureaucratic form shows itself with politically initiated promulgations, edicts, and rules devised by agencies relatively devoid of expertise in the fields they monitor, and at an unapproachable distance, all of which makes sensible dialog impossible.
Hillary is correct in stating that colleges are unaccountable, wasteful and overpriced. But if her plan is ultimately implemented, more “free lunches” would only further balloon our inefficient federal bureaucracy, place a greater burden on taxpayers and add to an already massive $18 trillion deficit. As history clearly demonstrates, colleges will feed on an influx of new funding by escalating tuition prices ever higher, like hungry sharks devouring their prey. And, with no “skin in the game” in terms of financial investment, students would be much less inclined to take their education seriously.
What should be done to lower the out-of-control costs of a college education? The first step is to look under the hood of college operations with a comprehensive business audit. Auditors will find so much unconscionable waste that heads will spin. And, secondly, why not force those institutions with outlandish multibillion-dollar endowments to use more of that money to lower student costs?
As for community colleges, why interfere when they are already doing an outstanding job of containing costs?
Robert V. Iosue has a BS degree from Fitchburg State, an MA from Columbia University, and an MS and PhD in Mathematics from Adelphi University. He was a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Columbia University, a professor of mathematics, Dean, and VP of Academic Affairs at CW Post of Long Island University, and Professor of Mathematics and President of York College of PA. He testified before congressional committees three times and was a Presidential appointee to the Student Financial Aid Committee.
Dr. Frank Mussano, has a BS from Penn State, an MA from the University of Maryland, and a Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. He has four decades of experience as a college administrator where he has guided all aspects of college life. He is expert in enrollment management, student retention, long range planning, accreditation, information technology, and student body diversity. He is prominent in professional organizations, publishing pertinent articles and presenting topical information sessions at national conferences.