President Obama’s proposed spending of $12 billion borrowed dollars to expand two-year colleges is tomorrow’s money chasing yesterday’s needs. The problem here is not lack of opportunity. It’s lack of interest and preparation. The money would be more productive going to prison education programs. There, at least, students aren’t distracted and can’t get away.
The President was in New York Monday promoting expansion of Pell Grants and promising that by 2020, the U.S. will again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. He’s convinced that “green” research is the key to future prosperity.
At present, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, that distinction is held by Russia, with 55 percent of the population between 25 and 64 holding college degrees. Next is Canada with 45 and the U.S. with 39.
Increasing subsidies to students to stay in college, or to enroll, is appealing, feel-good public policy. But if having the world’s highest percentage of adults with a college degree is a national policy, there’s an easy solution: Open admissions and lower standards. And for what? The need is to turn out graduates who can think and create and produce, as Americans once did.
One goal of education should be to back-track and to use the time young men and women spend behind bars to educate them about how to function in the larger world. Much of this money that’s being spent bringing college to the door-step of unprepared students should be diverted to prisons. Teach men and women how to be parents. How to treat each other. How to set a table or which fork to use. How to get a job and function in a business environment. Then catch them up on education basics. And then introduce them to high school and college work.
Once out the door, many or most of them will be lost. There’s relatively few young people on the outside who don’t have access to college. The lost generation is the one in prison, not the one wandering aimlessly about college campuses because it’s easier than work.