Annual State of the Union Address
Posted: February 6, 2015
When Presidents start their last two years of their second term, the annual State of the Union address usually includes a number of "pie-in-the-sky" concepts that would not be considered very likely to ever occur. Such was the case when President Obama presented his annual address last month when he proposed making two years of community college free for students.
At first, I wasn't sure if this proposal included Wisconsin's technical colleges, which are also two-year schools designed to assist students in various trades and skills. But after speaking with Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker this week, I realized that the state's technical colleges would very much be part of the discussion. However, the chances of students attending our technical colleges for free is a far-fetched idea.
As part of the President's plan, any student attending a two-year public state or local institution would qualify for free tuition so long as the student was able to maintain a C+ average. To be eligible, community colleges would have to offer academic credits that transfer to four-year colleges or occupational programs that produce high graduation rates.
Although nobody has come out with a plan to pay for the concept, White House officials estimate that this proposal would cost taxpayers $60 billion over 10 years, plus another $20 billion provided by the states.
"I'm not very optimistic on either the federal or state level. Plus, this would mean a complete restructuring of how the technical college system is funded in Wisconsin," said Barker, who added that he appreciates that both Governor Walker and President Obama consider education an important tool in helping individuals become self-sufficient and productive members of society. But the likelihood of anything happening in Wisconsin is rather dim.
As far as I'm concerned, this is another one of our President's new federal entitlement programs. The proposal is admirable, but since Governor Walker is asking the UW and the technical college systems to freeze their tuitions, there is a better chance that Governor Walker would become president than this proposal ever getting off the ground.
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