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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Fund K-12 before free community college

Obama’s proposal of offering free community college sounds like the government is not only spoon-feeding the nation, but also picking favorites.

According to USA Today, in order to qualify for these benefits, a student must be enrolled at least part-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA and be working towards earning an associate’s degree within three years. Within these parameters, public junior college education would be fully funded.

There’s nothing wrong with helping American teens and adults receive the education they deserve, but the previous education budget cuts make free community college an idea for the wrong time.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public college tuition rose 40 percent from 2001-2002 to 2011-2012. But even for the young undergrads who make it to that big-time university, they are often left to rely heavily on themselves as they lose financial support from their parents. 

As of 2013, only 27 percent of parents help their kids pay for college compared to 37 percent back in 2010, according to CNBC U.S. This has caused students to turn to government and outside aid to help pay for their educations.

From 2006 to 2012, the percentage of students relying on financial aid for college increased approximately 10 percentage points. In addition, “[t]he percentage of students receiving aid at 4-year public institutions increased from 75 to 83 percent,” and “[t]he percentage of students receiving aid at 2-year private nonprofit institutions increased from 83 to 94 percent,” according to the NCES. 

Students are also being pulled away from their studies in order to work in an attempt to pay off this debt. According to the U.S. Census, 72 percent of college students worked full- or part-time for at least one semester in 2011. In Arizona, 20 to 25 percent of college undergrads worked full-time year-round. 

On top of all this hair-pulling stress, graduates are greeted by a world that can’t accommodate them: Unemployment for recent college graduates is the highest it’s been in over twenty years, according to The Huffington Post and the NCES. In 2010, just over 10 percent of college grads with bachelor’s degrees or higher were unemployed.

Many of the community college-bound graduates who would be helped by this initiative are not prepared to manage college, and there are still many who are left behind, unable to graduate high school in the first place.

The budget cuts to K-12 education in the heart of the recession in 2008 caused 14 states to cut expenses at least 10 percent per student, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Since July 2008, 324,000 school jobs have been lost.

Every child deserves a proper education. Helping young adults who struggle with tuition and middle-aged parents who want a better life is a fantastic idea, but we should be ensuring the education of future generations first. If we don’t take care of K-12 students first, our country will have free community college — but still have as many dropouts and uneducated workers as before.

The American education system needs to help the younger generation in addition to promoting higher education as well. This is a balance that needs to be devised, but just offering free community college isn’t going to cut it.


Ashleigh Horowitz is a creative writing freshman. Follow her on Twitter.

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