In the President’s State of the Union tonight he will unleash another signature plan of throwing money at something. This one is “Free Education” at two year community colleges. That will be a terrible idea and Cato Institute explains why:
Take completion rates. According to the federal Digest of Education Statistics, only 19.5 percent of first-time, full-time students at two-year public schools finish their programs within 150 percent of the time they are slated to take. So less than 20 percent finish a two-year degree within three years, or, say, a 10-month certificate program within 15 months. And that rate has fallen even since 2000, when 23.6 percent of students completed.
That statistic doesn’t change much when you account for student transfers. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 20 percent of community college students transfer to four-year institutions. Four years later, 72 percent of those have completed their degree or remain enrolled. That inches the success rate to roughly 34 percent.
For profit two year programs come with a steeper cost, but more people flock to them then community colleges.
Given the wide price difference, you would expect for-profit schools to be getting their lunch eaten by already dirt-cheap community colleges. They haven’t been. Between 1990 and 2010, for-profit colleges saw much faster enrollment growth than community colleges; 179 percent compared to 44 percent. Why?
There are many reasons, but one seems to be that for-profits are more responsive to students’ needs and desires than community colleges. They appear to offer more flexible scheduling, better focused training and superior student services. They can charge more in part because they provide a better service.
Cato’s write up is in depth and also tackles “the fraud” issue as well. Take a look at the rest of it here.