The PJ Tatler

Obama's Budget: Billions for Community Colleges, War on For-Profit Colleges

President Obama’s latest budget proposal includes a curious provision: $8 billion for community colleges, with no “gainful employment rule” strings attached.

The proposed budget allots $8 billion for the Community College to Career Fund, which President Obama announced Monday at Northern Virginia Community College. The program is meant to help community colleges and local business work together to prepare students to take on jobs within the community.

While the president would print or borrow money for community colleges, he’s waging war on privately owned colleges. That war threatens not only the business people who own those colleges, but their students as well. Students like single mom Maritza Vega.

Recently, the Department of Education, under pressure from not-for-profit community colleges and education policy institutions, has proposed a “gainful employment” rule that would place a heavy burden on students who decide to go to for-profit schools. These new rules would limit federal grant money to schools whose students have low post-graduation income, and could eliminate financial aid to as many as 360,000 students. Many of those students are single mothers like me — women who depend on the flexibility of for-profit institutions to pursue their dreams while still caring for their families.

When I graduated from high school, the prospect of a college education was daunting. As an 18-year-old single mother, the cold hallways of a university seemed impersonal and uncaring. I had no sense of purpose and knew that a massive institution couldn’t provide the kind of guidance I would need to find success. When, after years of working administrative jobs, I finally decided I was ready to pursue higher education, traditional four-year universities seemed unappealing. They were cold and rigid, and their staffs seemed unwelcoming to a woman whose schedule wasn’t totally open.

Northwestern College was different. For once, an admissions counselor asked me what I wanted to do, not what classes I needed to take.

Read the rest. Vega made the right choice for her, a choice that Obama is regulating away for others. The unfair “gainful employment rule” would make it harder for others to follow Vega’s example, while driving students back into the incredibly expensive, bloated, inefficient and sharply political public college sector.

As always with this president, politics lurk behind his campaign to choose winners and losers in the college sector:

In the Inside Higher Ed survey, 65.1% of college presidents said that they planned to vote for the president this fall. Among sectors, support was stronger in public higher education (75% at public doctoral and master’s institutions, 85% at public baccalaureate institutions and 66% at community colleges). The lowest level of support was in for-profit higher education, where only 29% of presidents said they plan to vote for Obama this fall.