Note to Jeb Bush -- This is a bad idea [UPDATED]

The Bush team reached out to me and said The Hill got the report below wrong. In particular, the campaign tells me that Governor Bush “said we needed more options and state flexibility and name checked Tennessee promise” as an example of state flexibility.

He does not support a new federal entitlement program, but rather flexibility for states to experiment.



Jeb Bush has a new education idea. This time it is free college, or to be more precise, free two years of community college.

Not only that, according to this report, if a student cannot get a college degree in four years, the college needs to “have skin in the game.” If that involves a payment of money or something, get ready for no one graduating in four years.

Let’s leave aside the issue of where the “free” comes from. Somebody is paying. If it is not the student, then it is you and me.

The larger issue is why on earth the federal government should be involved with this. We have fifty states and each of them has a college system and community college system. As the federal government’s involvement in funding education has increased, so has college tuition. It seems like this would only make college more unaffordable.

Most interesting to me though is Germany. Yes, Germany. In Germany college is free. On a trip a few years ago hosted by the American Council on Germany, the Germans that interacted with the Americans on the trip lamented the free college education. They said, and there is plenty of data to support it, that free higher education is actually a bad idea. Neither the students nor the colleges treat it seriously.

But there’s something else too. We are never going to out-free the Democrats on stuff. Republicans need to provide alternatives, not Obama-style free education programs paid for differently.

Rick Perry, in Texas, got state colleges to set up a $10,000.00 college degree. Georgia and other states use lottery funds to give scholarships to students with good grades. Then there’s the Tennessee program that Bush and President Obama have both highlighted as a success. I don’t think we need, nor should we want, the federal government involved — particularly if we’re going to be a party for smaller government. The states are already doing it anyway.

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