The news that President Obama has proposed making two years of community college free for students who attend college at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA has been met with a largely predictable teeth-gnashing, rending of garments, and outraged cries of SOCIALIZMS from certain members of the population.
Those complaining the loudest—at least on Twitter, which exploded with discussions about Obama’s plan under the hashtag #FreeCommunityCollege—tend to have social media profiles that contain the three C’s: “Christian. Conservative. Constitution.” (Complete, nearly always, with some sort of avatar featuring either a bald eagle, an American flag, or the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake.)
What many of these conservative critics fail to understand, though, is that Obama’s plan is based on one instituted by renowned commie socialist and governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam. (Haslam is a Republican, for those of you keeping score.)
Via The Tennessean:
During a conference call with reporters Thursday, administration officials said the proposal was based on the “fantastic results” of Tennessee Promise, which began its rollout here in 2014. Gov. Bill Haslam has received national praise for the program, which will fund community college tuition for eligible seniors who graduate from high school in Tennessee.
The first class of Tennessee Promise students will start attending community colleges without tuition this fall. Those costs will be covered by federal aid and state lottery dollars.
Obama’s proposal, which will require support from the Republican-controlled Congress, could benefit up to 9 million students across the country, the officials said. It would be open to nontraditional students as well as high school seniors.
Of course Obama’s plan, which is inspired by a Republican governor’s implemented initiative, is a good one—but the conservative outrage is so thick you could choke on it. You see, the Constitution doesn’t guarantee a right to an education. But those dadgum liberals, with their “gimme gimme gimme” attitude and their outstretched hands always looking for free stuff, are still intent on stealing money from hardworking Americans in order to help students pay for college.
And Barack Obummer, socialist dictator that he is, is more than happy to oblige. When will it end? First it was “free” health care, then “free” birth control, and now free education? Jesus didn’t die for my sins so I could pay for some hairy-legged feminazi to get a degree in Women’s Studies. Besides, where in the Bible does it say anything about free education? Nowhere, that’s where.
Surely it would surprise these conservative caterwaulers to learn that back in the day, a lot of colleges were free to attend. For example, the University of California system was free until 1968, when Ronald Reagan instituted a student fee that would later morph into a tuition fee. Tuition at City University of New York—the largest urban university in the country—was zero for 129 years, until a fiscal crisis forced it to discontinue the policy in 1976. And myriad other public universities were either free or dirt cheap in those halcyon days of higher learning. Back then, you didn’t have to worry about scraping up $25-to-50,000 just to get a college degree. If you wanted to go to college and you had decent grades, you could go.
But that all ended in the 1970s, when campuses across the country became a hotbed for student protests about the Vietnam War and about civil rights. When students began causing a ruckus, conservatives began to enact financial barriers to receiving an education.
As Roger Freeman, aide to Governor Ronald Reagan put it back in 1970, “We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That’s dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education.” (Freeman would later serve as educational policy advisor to Richard Nixon.)
And in 1970, Spiro Agnew, who was Vice President at the time, was even more forthright. In a speech on higher education, Agnew spoke, as the Tuscaloosa News put it, about “the violence emanating from Black students,” saying, “We created our own difficulties the day we (and I mean the liberal academicians) decided that a college or university should double as a settlement house. Once the decision was made that Negro or ‘culturally underprivileged’ youngsters should be admitted to first class colleges, without the usual prerequisites, the escalation began.”
Writing for Monster.com, Anya Kamanetz explains:
The era of free tuition ended, ironically, with the student movement of the 1960s, just as campuses were getting more populous, diverse, and democratic. Ronald Reagan made the University of California a major punching bag of his 1966 campaign for governor of California, with the encouragement of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who saw campus peace activists as dangerous subversives. Upon taking office, Reagan managed to have UC president Clark Kerr fired—he had been the architect of mass higher education not just in California, but across the country—and hiked fees at the UC colleges.
So basically, hella cheap education was fine and dandy until a bunch of hippies, beatniks, and uppity Black radicals had to go and ruin it for everyone by being socially conscious and smart.
Because the simple fact is that far too many conservatives rely upon a dumbed-down populace. The more educated the masses are, the more inclined they are to look around them and realize that everything is bullshit. Grinding away at three jobs, making minimum wage just to be able to feed your kids? Bullshit. Racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt when our parents went to college for practically nothing? Bullshit. And the more bullshit people see, the more likely they are to push back against it and reclaim power from those who want to maintain their collective boot on our necks. An educated population scares many conservatives, especially now, when thousands of people have been taking to the streets demanding recognition that Black Lives Matter.
They want you to believe that you don’t deserve an education. That the only people who deserve a college education are those who can afford it. Hell, Rick Santorum called President Obama a snob simply for saying that everyone in America deserves to go to college.
But it’s not snobbery. It’s just common sense. And President Obama understands that.
Still, conservatives maintain, the question remains: How is he going to pay for it? He’s going to steal money out of my pocket and give it to some undeserving poor person! How is that fair?
You want to talk numbers? Let’s talk numbers.
The president’s plan, which could benefit up to 9 million students nationwide, is expected to cost $60 billion over the next ten years. Now that may seem like a lot, but let me put it in perspective. Walmart and the Waltons—the family that owns Walmart—reportedly receive 7 billion dollars a year in tax breaks and subsidies. That’s $70 billion over the next decade.
Now, I’m not good at math, but I’m pretty sure 60 billion is less than 70 billion, and if Walmart would just stop suckling off the government teat, then maybe a few million students could go to college.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a fair trade-off to me.
And to those of you who are hand-waving the president’s plan, claiming that a community college education is worthless, let me say this: My father started out at Queens Community College and ended up with a Ph.D. from Stanford University and tenure at the University of Pennsylvania.
This country loves a good bootstrap story. Well, there’s one for you. And if Obama’s plan becomes a reality, we can expect even more.