Free Community College, Good or Not Going to Work?

A popular video going around right now is the president talking about his plan for free Community College access for “anyone willing to work for it”. This video has got me thinking… this could be good… but will it work?

Cost-of-CollegeIf you have not seen the video it is embedded at the bottom of this post. According to the official White House release

President proposed making two years of community college free for anyone who’s willing to work for it. His proposal could save a full-time community college student an average of $3,800 in tuition per year and benefit about 9 million students per year if they earn good grades and stay on track to graduate.

Alright… so let me give my $0.02 on this topic…

I went to a community college (actually we call it a Technical College here in WI) to start. Later I went on to the University Wisconsin for both a BS and an MS degree. The majority of the police, career firefighters and career EMS workers I know went to a community college at some point as a student.

A good number of the career public safety workers I know only have Technical College level AS degree. Yet at the same time I know many people who never finished their AS degree. They got the minimum certifications needed to get a full time job and then left school to work. For many of the people I know money was the reason for not finishing school. They could not pay rent, food, gas, and tuition so they needed to start working full time. More than one talks about going back to school but only a few ever do.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think that everyone NEEDS a college degree. But face it our work is about more than handcuffing techniques, putting water on fire, and stopping bleeding. Police, fire and EMS are all evolving career paths.

“Problem solving” and “predictive prevention thinking” are not exactly taught in the classes that make up the basic minimum skills certifications required to simply get a job. They are tasks that have to be learned, not drilled. That learning comes in the classes that bridge the gap between skills certification and a degree.

Meaning this program could help increase the levels of professionalism within our public safety professions. Police/Fire/EMS all struggle with having the public seeing us as career professionals and not just working stiffs doing a menial job. In theory the more of us who are educated the more we will raise the bar for our profession.

But can this be pulled off? Where will the money come from? What happens when the market is flooded with well educated applicants but not enough jobs?

I guess we will have to just wait and see…