'Free' college may be no bargain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Free tuition at community colleges sounds like a great idea, but local college officials know nothing is really free.

"Free sounds great if you're a student," said Ryan Purdy, Mid-Plains Community College president. "But from the taxpayer standpoint, the cost may exceed the anticipated outcomes."

The college issued a response to President Obama's announcement Friday of the America's College Promise Proposal to make two years of community college free "for responsible students."

Purdy said tuition makes up 20-35 percent of the general fund budgets of community colleges statewide, and those tuition revenues would have to be replaced by state and federal money amounting to tens of millions of dollars a year in Nebraska alone.

The White House likened the proposal to the free high school movement of a century ago, but said America has fallen behind the world in providing an educated workforce.

But the Mid-Plains Community College system has succeeded in making a college education accessible to "responsible" students already.

McCook Community College in particular has succeeded in a large part because of the generous support of private citizens -- the Peter & Dolores Graff Event Center as only the most recent example of a public-private partnership. Many of the other buildings on the MCC campus were provided through private donations -- several from the same family or business associates.

"Our Mid-Plains Community College system prides itself on its accessibility, and probably more importantly, its affordability," said Chuck Salestrom, area associate vice president of public information and marketing. "We have a wide variety of funding mechanisms in place to underwrite costs such as Pell Grants, scholarships and tuition waivers. If used correctly, a student can graduate here with little or no debt."

And it's not just MPCC or other community colleges. Collegebound Nebraska is already allowing more than 6,000 University of Nebraska students to attend one of four university campuses and while paying no tuition.

"Responsibility" is key to that program, which requires them to be a full-time Nebraska resident undergraduate student taking at least 12 credit hours per semester, be a Pell Grant recipient, maintain satisfactory academic progress, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and apply for federal aid.

MPCC and other officials are worried that federal dollars will carry red tape that will negate any advantage a new program will offer.

In the broader view, it does little good to provide a qualified workforce for businesses if the tax burden drives those businesses overseas, or out of business altogether.

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  • Really there is no such thing as free in regard to products or services. Somebody always needs to pay. If a person has no "skin in the game" they most often have less reason to care for the products/property given to them or to maximize the services they received for "free". One of the thoughts why k-12 private school students seem to to better than their public school counterparts is the "free" vs. purchase concept.

    -- Posted by dennis on Tue, Jan 13, 2015, at 3:04 PM
  • I like bringing up this survey result. - " In a 2011 Pew poll, young Americans between the ages of 18-29 favored socialism to capitalism by 49% to 43%; " If the idea is a socialist idea - it will become a reality. For example -- The idea of opening the border is based on the perceived need to supply many more tax payers who will provide a greater amount of money, through taxation at various levels,to pay the ever greater burden of expanding & increasingly expensive entitlements. There's no effort to get rid of entitlements. So,you will probably soon see the border opened.I imagine that it could be argued that it is open now. To people from all over the world. As Dennis says here - nothing is really free. There's always a cost.

    -- Posted by bob s on Tue, Jan 13, 2015, at 7:51 PM
  • Free community college may not be a cheap deal for the country but neither is an entire generation starting out life with $24,000+ in student loan debt for doing something they're being told since kindergarten they need to do get ahead in life.

    There's over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt in this country. That's a staggering number that is and will continue to hurt this economy for sometime into the future. At the rate things are going, the cost of a college education is going to quickly outstrip the benefits.

    -- Posted by npwinder on Wed, Jan 14, 2015, at 10:19 AM
  • No, it's not free. As always, the taxpayer will eat the cost of this. When our "best and brightest" are spending half of their productive adult life trying to stay ahead of student loan payments, one can see they overpayed for a product that cannot be utilized. Unless of course, it's a technical degree. Also, college is not for everyone, just look at the dropout rates.

    Of all the goods and services available to all Americans, only health care and college education prices are not reflective of the buyers ability to pay. That, would be worthwhile rioting over.

    -- Posted by Hugh Jassle on Wed, Jan 14, 2015, at 4:14 PM
  • Taxpayers are already on the hook for the cost of college.

    Once the student graduates, they have 10 years to pay the loans back. If the income isn't high enough they can go on income based or income contingent payments and they get 25 years to pay it off. The government forgives anything not paid after the 25 years and the IRS taxes it like income.

    Right now, an entry level management job paying $10 an hour, wants the 4 year degree plus 1-2 years management experience.

    a $20,000/year job for $24,000 in debt.

    Guess how many students are going on income based or income contingent payments after their 6 month grace period is up and they realize their payments are over 250 a month.

    -- Posted by npwinder on Thu, Jan 15, 2015, at 12:45 AM
  • Free College? Sign me up retroactively! I think that if they are going to offer free college education, they owe me back what I paid for mine! This is absolutely insane. Its just another example of making people more dependent upon government. Another example of the socialist mentality of our admistration.

    -- Posted by quick13 on Thu, Jan 15, 2015, at 8:09 AM
  • I knew it would be just a matter of time until someone referred to the Presidents Proposal as Socialist Mentality. How come we never hear the outrage when the Government buys private water rights, subsidizes crop insurance, or buys $25 million dollars worth of excess Great White Northern Beans?

    -- Posted by Geezer on Fri, Jan 16, 2015, at 6:39 PM
  • If a person skips college and works for near minimum wage and gets less than full time hours they qualify for various forms of subsidies such as food stamps, medical etc.

    Either way our society is subsidizing. Either proactively in a positive way such as college tuition or reactively as in helping people buy food and needed items.

    I would like to add that MPCC does a tremendous job at providing education at a low cost. It is truly a wonderful community resource. However many colleges do not function that way.

    -- Posted by Diatheke on Tue, Jan 20, 2015, at 10:14 AM
  • People who at least graduate from high school should be able to find full time employment and just a short lived stint on minimum wage. It boils down to work ethic and taking on challenges. Too many college graduates lack these skill and get stuck in dead end jobs. My advice, just get out and work.

    -- Posted by Hugh Jassle on Tue, Jan 20, 2015, at 2:05 PM
  • People that get nearly 300 million dollars from the

    Government in red Willow County in govt. subsidies are asking the state to transfer their tax tax bill to. Others. Check the websites on farm welfare

    -- Posted by dennis on Wed, Jan 21, 2015, at 2:04 AM
  • Denny.....did we get our comment on the wrong blog? I believe that you said on the other one that you were through with this conversation. Well here we go again...Did Todd and myself make so much sense that you decided that you would grumble your comments on another blog? The 300 million dollar figure is an outright lie it is obvious that you have never looked at the website, much less did the math. It is 128 mill over 17 years for the county. This is 7.5 mill per year, for the whole county; meanwhile, the budget for McCook schools alone is 15 mill per year. This does not take into account any of our other fine schools in the county. Since I have already addressed these issues on another blog (which you most prominently proclaimed that you were not going to grace with your presence). I have taken the liberty to cut and paste them here for your enjoyment.


    1. The figures that you allude to are for 17 years including the time when there were direct payments to farmers

    2. A majority of these figures are non-direct crop insurance subsidies. Which the farmer never receives a check for.

    3. It also includes cost share for improvements such as conservation work such as wildlife set asides, flood control structures, etc.

    4. In 90% of these "amounts" the farmer had to put in more as his share than the government did for theirs.

    5. In most cases he/she wouldn't have insured at as high of rate or chose to have the conservation work done if they had to pay 100%.

    6. All of these payments are designed to keep the local producer in business.

    7. As of the last farm bill there are no more direct payments to farmers.

    8. Ranchers do not receive crop insurance subsidies and minimal conservation cost share

    If what you are saying (that the people on the list have lots of money) is true, then what would be wrong with taxing their profit instead of taxing their lands potential?


    1. If you don't like the idea that farmers get government subsidies, then take action to change it. I believe that you would find that most farmers would love the idea of not having to accept assistance. But this also goes with increased commodity prices aka food cost.

    2. This is what I am saying; the property valuation formula is flawed. It is not a fair tax. It is nondependent upon profit or loss. It is an arbitrary value based upon recent sales and the profit POTENTIAL of that type of land.

    3. On your incorrect assumption that land prices are too high because the government helps pay for the land, this is incorrect in many ways but the primary way is thus; too many investors have left the relative insecurity of the stock market and have reinvested in hard property aka land. Farmland is not purchased now on its earning capacity, but on its value as an investment.

    I am no expert but I do realize that taxes need to be fair. No farmer/rancher that I know thinks that they don't owe something in taxes. But every last one of them believes that they are being unfairly singled out as having the majority of the tax burden placed upon them.

    This is illustrated by my friend with the apartments who has to spend only 8% of his gross income for property taxes and I have to spend 29% of mine of my farm? This is to say nothing about the income tax we both have to pay. Please explain this inequality.


    Have you ever considered why the farms just keep getting bigger and bigger? It's the profit margin. You must farm more and more just to keep your same standard of living. The medium home price in 1950 was $7354 whereas in 2014 it was $188900 in 64 years the cost for an average home has risen by a factor of 25. If you would apply that factor to wheat or corn prices it would be $47.00 a bushel for wheat and $37.50 a bushel for corn.

    A final note. I am not trying to be disrespectful to Dennis; I know he believes what he believes. But his attitudes are not friendly toward the industry that supports almost all of southwest Nebraska. I believe that you cannot borrow yourself out of debt, no more than you can tax yourself into prosperity.

    -- Posted by quick13 on Wed, Jan 21, 2015, at 9:23 PM
  • quick13

    Following is a comment I found on the EWG Farm Database I thought you would enjoy.

    Insane government spending on larger farmers has a profound psychological effect on larger farmer's spending. Small town USA main street has been melting down for decades due to the exodus of small farmers from rural America caused by discriminatory government farm programs. For decades Congress has spent billions insuring and guaranteeing the financial durability of a specific group of farmers which has the utmost probability of greatest profitability, the largest farmers. This immoral spending has come at the expense of smaller farmers who are adversely harmed economically by the increased costs of production caused by this outrageous spending larded on the most profitable group of farmers. The multimillion dollar investment/profit guarantees targeted at those with the largest profits is capitalized into substantially higher land and other farm input costs. Congress is providing billions in help for those who need the help the least. At the same time they are financially kneecapping smaller farmers who are the least financially viable! These operators watch as their financial health is afflicted with overwhelming and suffocating expenses caused by the discriminatory targeting of perpetual and overwhelming prosperity to the most prosperous. The money larded on the wealthiest has quickly flowed back to reelection campaigns. Congressmen are not ignorant - money targeted poor individuals, of course does not flow back in great quantities.

    When are we are going to give middle class America a break?

    -- Posted by Geezer on Sat, Jan 24, 2015, at 4:50 PM
  • Correction. Nearly 130 million. Again to some of the highest net worth individuals in the county.

    -- Posted by dennis on Sun, Jan 25, 2015, at 4:27 PM
  • Geezer I believe that If you would ask random farmers if they want govt. assistance they would overwhelmingly say NO! They would much rather have decent prices for their commodities. The farm subsidies are a two edged sword. Yes they provide a safety net to financial collapse but they also keep the commodity prices at a unprofitable level. Congress has made some rules (such as no individual farmer can recieve more than $50000 per year in direct payments). That eliminated some abuse of the system But what congress failed to realize was that the big farmers would just give each kid a farm just big enough to collect the $50k. Or if not that create LLC's to collect that $50k. Thank god direct payments have been Eliminated from the current farm bill and the only thing that remains is the crop insurance subsidy which is based upon that lands (not farmers) 10 year production history. Another thing that we must remember is that 80% of the farm bill goes to welfare......

    Yes Geezer there are loopholes that the big corporate farms will exploit. And yes we need to close these loopholes.

    Dennis.....why are you so against farmers? You have chosen to live in a very strange area if you are so anti-agriculture. Remember, these people who you think are cheating the system are the life blood of our community and also taxpayers and voters......just saying. Perhaps you should take a moment and reevaluate your beliefs.....

    -- Posted by quick13 on Mon, Jan 26, 2015, at 7:28 PM
  • Quick, never have I said I was anti farmer. My point was and remains that the vast majority of farmers are much more wealthy than the majority of folks that get a weekly or monthly pay check. My point was and remains that although some people receive welfare checks, some farmers also receive government checks and that farmers enjoy many tax breaks others do not have. I believe farmers are hard working, God fearing, individuals. Ag not only drives our local economy but the economy of our state and nation. My parents and grandparents were farmer/ranchers. I have had dirt under my fingernails and manure on my boots. I do understand the fiscal balances of ag.. Again, like I said, I do not fault those in Ag wanting a property tax break. We all want property tax relief. I do have a problem with those with high net worth asking others with low net worth to pay more in taxes just to help them reduce their tax burden. If you are in Ag, thanks for your devotion to your career.

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Jan 26, 2015, at 7:49 PM
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