On Tuesday, March 30, President Obama made remarks at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, on the occasion of the president’s signing the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.
It was a feel-good moment for those of us who have taught in community colleges, have relatives and friends who attended them, or have ourselves benefited from the practical education and career preparation these two-year institutions provide millions of students. In the upside down world of US colleges and universities, the thousand-plus community colleges dotting the national landscape are the gateway to higher education for millions of students whose access to more prestigious, more selective, and more expensive campuses is virtually non-existent, although you would never know this if you glance at the carefully composed photos on the websites and brochures of such institutions, listen to their presidents wax eloquent about diversity, or spend time in the alternate universe of their “oppression studies” course offerings. Community college students are usually the first in their families to attend post-secondary institutions; they are all colors and ethnicities, and many are immigrants; they are poor and middle-class; most of them hold down jobs, often full-time jobs, while attending class. It was thrilling to know that the President of the United States had set foot on such a campus. Community colleges deserve our support and our respect.
But the initial pleasure in seeing our president, the product of one elite educational institution after another, set foot in such, to him, alien territory, faded as soon as he opened his mouth and made plain how little he respects the learning that goes on in community colleges. For sure enough, in between the metaphorical pats on his back and whimsical descriptions of his courageous victory in the “great battle pitting the interests of the banks and financial institutions against the interests of students,” the president claimed that the new legislation, as it pertains to colleges and universities will:
save American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years — $68 billion. That’s real money — (laughter) — real savings that we’ll reinvest to help improve the quality of higher education and make it more affordable.
No wonder the transcript of the president’s remarks includes the notation about laughter from the audience. What President Obama said is risible. How is it possible to “save” taxpaxers money that the government turns around and spends (“revinvests”)? You either spend or you save. You cannot allocate the same money twice, as any alumnus of Northern Virginia Community College’s “Principles of Accounting I” will gladly tell you.
If the president were really interested in helping community college students, he’d return that $68 billion and all other so-called “savings” to them and all other taxpayers, thereby giving all of us the wherewithal to make our own investment decisions.
NOTE to readers: An earlier version of this post first appeared on the terrific The American Thinker website.