President Obama gave his first address to the Congress last night and he addressed a variety of topics. The one topic that piqued my interest was his discussions about education and higher education specifically. Higher education affordability for all Americans is one of my major issues as a voter so I thought I’d offer some comments here. The text from Obama’s speech:
I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.
You know – that’s a very inspiring thought and a good idea. I wonder about how realistic it is in action, though. For example, what will the cost be to the government if High School Student A volunteers X amount of hours in his or her hometown and thus meets the requirements of this program? Will the government pay all of their tuition at a public school? Half? A quarter? What is the number that makes college affordable for a student?
Further, what happens if High School Student B – who is from a better off family than Student A – does the same amount (or more) of volunteering than Student A? Since Student B is from a well-to-do family, then does he or she get anything for their community service? The same end was achieved – citizens served their community. Right?
And what happens when High School Student C needs another 50 hours of community service by the deadline date to qualify for whatever this grant money will be? Are we to believe that if Student C’s family knows people who know people that they won’t write-up false letters showing all of the service hours that Student C volunteered?
I don’t want to sound like a negative guy on this proposal, but it seems like it’s a bit too nebulous right now. I’m all for college affordability so long as 1) it is a program with no discrimination (income included), and 2) it’s fiscally responsible. We didn’t get that information last night. Other than that, I thought the President’s speech sounded more like a campaign speech than anything else, but I had no major fundamental problems with it.