John Kerry’s service-for-tuition idea wouldn’t send more low-income students to college, writes Jay P. Greene in National Review.
John Kerry recently unveiled his plan to make college more affordable. His “Service for College” initiative would offer students free college tuition in exchange for two years of public service doing things like teaching in urban public schools or working on homeland security. Kerry hopes this plan will make college more accessible to those who otherwise would have a tough time paying the bills, particularly low-income minority students.
Unfortunately, while it may be desirable to engage more young people in public service, Kerry’s plan is unlikely to significantly increase the number of students who enroll in college. Contrary to popular belief, the evidence indicates that the cost of tuition prevents very few students from pursuing a college degree. The problem isn’t that students can’t afford college — it’s that not enough students possess the academic qualifications necessary even to apply. This cannot be fixed through better financing for tuition: It requires reforming K-12 education.
Although Kerry voted for No Child Left Behind, he now rejects high-stakes testing as well as school choice, Greene writes. That leaves him with an education policy that’s based on spending more money with less accountability for results.