Improving Obama’s Community College Plan

Besides the Charlie Hebdo attack, the other big story of the week is Obama’s plan to make community college free for everyone. A few thoughts come to mind:

The timing of this announcement is conspicuous, coming just days after the Charlie Hebdo attack. It’s not unreasonable to assume Obama did this to take attention away from his foreign policy failings that allowed the terrorist attack to happen. Obama’s weakness on terror and foreign policy inexperience is apparent for all the world to see, and he thinks he can just pull the wool over the eyes of the public with this distraction and no one will notice.

On to the plan itself; believe it or not, I actually support financial aid – but ONLY for those who are cognitively capable of benefiting from it. One problem with Obama’s plan is that it doesn’t address the sky-high dropout rate of community college attendees, or as Megan Ardle writes:

Of course, community colleges are often dealing with the most challenging students. More than 50 percent of community-college enrollees require remedial work, and of those, more than 40 percent never even complete their remedial courses. Add in family and financial challenges, and it’s not surprising that dropout rates are so high. But this raises a question that most people don’t ask. If you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by your community college, what are the odds that you are going to earn a valuable degree? Why are we so obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system, rather than asking if we aren’t putting too much emphasis on getting a degree?

The plan would cost about $60 billion over a 10-year period; from The Atlantic:

Only about 15 percent of students who start out at a community college earn a bachelor’s degree after six years. And, researchers have found that when students with similar test scores and grades attend community college or a four-year school, the latter are far more likely to earn a degree.

The high dropout rate is mainly attributable to low IQs of the students. Many colleges use assessment tests, but this isn’t good enough since community college work is harder than high school work and the tests obviously don’t cover college material. An IQ test would be the best because that would answer the readiness question for both remedial and high school graduates. Remedial students who score high (such as on a culture-fair test) would have the cognitive capacity to pickup on the material. Likewise, those with some education would pickup the more advanced materiel fairly quickly. Free tuition should be contingent on scoring at least 110 on an IQ test. That would guarantee a much higher success rate and less taxpayer dollars being wasted. From Charles Murray:

To have an IQ of 100 means that a tough high-school course pushes you about as far as your academic talents will take you. If you are average in math ability, you may struggle with algebra and probably fail a calculus course. If you are average in verbal skills, you often misinterpret complex text and make errors in logic. . . . You are smart enough to engage in any of hundreds of occupations. You can acquire more knowledge if it is presented in a format commensurate with your intellectual skills. But a genuine college education in the arts and sciences begins where your skills leave off.

There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Adjust that percentage to account for high-school dropouts, and more than 40% of all persons in their late teens are trying to go to a four-year college — enough people to absorb everyone down through an IQ of 104.

An IQ 100 typically isn’t high enough to make the leap from high school to college material, which is why 110 a good cutoff point. It would also dramatically reduce the cost of the program since only 10% of applicants would score high enough.

Another problem is students majoring in useless subjects that produce little to no economic value (aside from keeping the textbook and liberal arts racket going).

Of course, the left would never approve of either of these suggestions.