On January 12, Barack Obama unveiled his new plan to make higher education available to anybody “willing to work for it”.
The White House recently released a fact sheet explaining how beneficial the program will be to Americans, but as Obama said, “This isn’t a blank check. It’s not a free lunch.” When Obama said that, he was not kidding. The Obama community college plan could potentially have serious financial implications for taxpayers and the country itself. These financial implications pose an essential question: is this program worth it? The facts are indicating that its not.
The America’s College Promise is a federal program that will cost $60 billion over ten years. States will also contribute another $20 billion. American’s tax dollars will fund 75% of the program. That is a hefty price tag for a program that, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, may not even increase college attendance.
The fact sheet released by the White House states that one goal of the program is to continue the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is set to expire in two years. The credit was established in 2009 as a part of the stimulus bill. The American Opportunity Tax Credit gives families up to $10,000 refund for college expenses. However, this credit does not just benefit families in need of financial assistance. The money mostly goes to families who earn less than $50,000 annually, but can also be claimed by wealthy families. According to College Board, a quarter of the money from this refund is given to families who make over $100,000 a year. Wealthy families are not being given this break by accident; families need to be able to have federal tax liability to receive the money.Therefore, more money is being given to the wealthy, and not those who are in need.
With the financial strain this program will cause, it is unacceptable for it to cause more strain, due to its poor timing. The bill for tuition rolls in in the fall, and the tax credit is issued in the spring. Families have to put the money out first, and then wait almost half of a year for a return on their investment into Obama’s program, which seems intentionally inconvenient.
The America’s College Promise Program is financially irresponsible- to the taxpayers and the economic health of the nation. Taxes have to skyrocket or money has to be borrowed. With the amount of money concerned, let’s hope that the quality of community colleges increases, and that this program leaves a positive mark on the job market by putting qualified people in good jobs. But given the cost of this program, that would be wishful thinking.
(Bryanna Guarnieri ’16, Arts Editor)