Obama proposes 'free' community college education with no way to fund it

President Obama is proposing that the federal government pay the tuition of 9 million community college students.  As long as the students maintained a 2.5 grade average, the benefit would be available.

There's only one small problem, according to the National Journal's Fawn Johnson: the president failed to say how he would pay for it.

Without that crucial piece of the program, which would be available to students as long as they maintain a 2.5 grade-point average, the idea is little more than a pipe dream. It resembles Obama's proposal in 2013 for a universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds. To provide free public pre-K just for low-income families would cost $75 billion over 10 years. Early-education lobbyists are struggling to figure out how to persuade lawmakers to pony up for that small part of a larger proposal. (A cigarette tax is among the items they are bandying about.)

When it comes to community colleges, the lobbyists haven't even gotten that far. Yet Obama is hoping to capitalize on a campaign begun in his first term to emphasize higher education for people who don't have easy access to four-year universities. Community colleges are increasingly becoming an affordable way for students to attain the first half of a bachelor's degree before transferring to a four-year university. College tuition and student debt have proven to be powerful campaign tools, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has illustrated in her effort to reduce student-loan interest rates.

Obama, meanwhile, has been criticized by some in the higher-education community for his emphasis on community colleges over other types of schools that offer professional degrees, even as the Education Department has engaged in a six-year war with the for-profit college industry over its recruitment practices. This latest announcement from the White House won't smooth over any hard feelings.

The White House proposal is modeled after programs in Tennessee and Chicago that are experimenting with ways to offer tuition assistance to students. In Tennessee, a free community college program is funded through a state lottery. Georgia also provides tuition assistance for its residents through a state lottery, but those grants aren't limited to community colleges. Georgia's lottery also funds universal pre-K, although many eligible families can't get into those schools because the money is limited.

The Obama proposal is for 75% of the funds to come from Washington, with the other 25% paid by states.  The total cost of the program would be north of $35 billion a year if all 50 states participated.

This proposal will go nowhere in Congress, thank God.  The media will whine about denying "free" tuition to poor people without seeing the stupidity of not realizing that someone, somewhere has to pay for it.  But this is typical Obama blather – a grandiose-sounding plan with no concept of how much it will cost or how it will be paid for.