Service with a smile

There has been some talk in the blogosphere about Obama's wish to see college kids put in 100 hours of community service. (Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times and Steven Bainbridge are two.)

Most of the articles discuss the involuntary servitude aspect, but I want to talk about something else.

Go to any of the main state schools, or especially go to the minor city colleges, and you will find one thing stands out: a very large segment of the student body is returning adults who work full time, have families full time, and go to college in the evenings and on weekends, and whenever they can find time in their hectic schedules to fit in a class. These are people who may have dropped out of high school, or out of college after a couple years. After years in the workplace and leading grown-up lives they realize that to get a promotion, or to get a better job, they need to have two little letters on their resumé: B.A. These are people who take 10 years, one class a semester, to get their degree. These people don't have 100 minutes of extra time, much less 100 hours. If they did have extra time, they'd probably use it providing for their family or taking another course to get through faster.

[Back to College] (The Department of Education recently reported that 13 percent of students now enrolled in college were single parents, up from 7.6 percent in 1993.) Economic reasons are a strong factor: students want to change careers or update professional credentials. Some adult students continue to work while returning to school while others attend part-time.

[…] Millions of adult students successfully return to college to obtain a degree. However, they often have numerous responsibilities to consider when making the decision. These responsibilities can include marriage, children, work, community obligations, or care of elderly parents. The time and commitment needed to complete a degree program and balance these responsibilities can be a challenge.

[…] Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that adult students are the fastest growing educational demographic, and these numbers are steadily increasing. In 1970, 28 percent of all college students were 25 years of age or older. In 1998 the number of adult learners had increased to 41 percent. The number of students age 35 and older in degree-granting institutions has soared from about 823,000 in 1970 to an estimated 2.9 million in 2001 — doubling from 9.6% of total students to 19.2%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
The Department of Education currently lists the percentage of college students over the age of 24 at 39% of all students.

Are these the kind of students Obama has in mind? Or is he thinking of Ivy League residential colleges which make up a tiny fraction of total college enrollment, but make up the entire fraction of his experience?

Is he thinking of the single moms who have real jobs and can't make up the 100 hours in the summer? Or is he thinking of Ivy League college kids who kick around their parent's house all summer bored and lazy, and can spend the whole summer in "community service" if they wanted to?

Adult learners can't afford to lose 100 hours of their time to make liberals feel better. Their community service is in the gainful and productive employment they perform and the child care they provide to their own kids. Their service is done keeping their own house picked up and getting dinner on the table.

To me, this shows how out of touch Obama is with the realities of many people's lives. He lives in an upper-class world where the ends always meet.

Then there's this little tidbit from his proposal:
[ Rocky Mountain News ] For college students, I have proposed an annual American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4,000. To receive this credit, we'll require 100 hours of public service. You invest in America, and America invests in you - that's how we're going to make sure that college is affordable for every single American, while preparing our nation to compete in the 21st century.
According to that same DoE page, there will be 18,839,000 college students in 2010--the first possible year that Obama's proposal could take effect.

At $4,000 a pop we're talking: $75,356,000,000! That's a brand new $75 billion dollar (or divided by 5 years of college = $15B) entitlement.

That's also $40/hour, which is higher than most people will ever make in their lives. That's also over $500 for every individual tax return filed with the IRS.

Good lord. Spare us.


Anonymous said...

> Ivy League college kids who kick around their parent's house all summer bored and lazy

Your bigotry is showing.