Mr. President, Money Doesn't Grow On Trees

09/10/2012 09:07 am ET | Updated Nov 10, 2012

Jack is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

College tuition is too damn high! With the average four-year college charging $21,189 per year -- a figure so high that it's approaching half the median household income -- middle-class college students are being forced to either pursue a mediocre education at nearby community colleges or saddle themselves with an average of $24,000 in college debt over the course of their four years of college. Stuyvesant students, many of us from immigrant families, are finding it harder and harder to afford the high quality education we've worked so painfully hard to earn. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, middle-class families are increasingly faced with the reality that the American dream of social mobility through higher education is fading away.

Lucky for them, President Obama has come to the rescue! To stop college prices from spiraling upwards, Obama is going to force colleges to lower their tuition rates by threatening to cut government financial aid funding to those colleges that don't comply. Obama's plan, according to Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education in Washington, "smacks of price controls," a sad reality in America, land of the free.

While forcing colleges to lower tuition rates may sound good on the surface, we have to ask ourselves where the colleges are going to get the money to survive without increased tuition. With increased budget cuts, increased enrollment, and a growing number of families in need of financial aid, operational costs are skyrocketing. Colleges are increasingly depending on increased tuition, their main source of revenue, to cover costs.

With decreased tuition rates, many state colleges are going to be left desperately in need of money to balance their budget -- forcing them to cut school programs, jobs, and planned renovations. The consequences are twofold.

First, cutting academic activities, building renovations and other key school programs is going to hurt the education of America children, only further decreasing the United States' global prestige. What we're seeing is that Obama's plan to 'promote' education will actually end up diminishing students' academic opportunities. Second, the college jobs that could be cut in order to meet budget needs will further hurt the American economy.

The colleges who refuse to comply with the President's demand for lower tuition rate face even more severe consequences. Obama is planning to remove government funding from their campus-based aid programs -- work-study programs, Perkins loans and supplemental grants for low-income students -- thus inhibiting underprivileged students them from getting the education Obama has so often called 'necessary.' Spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Haley Chitty, said, "Ultimately, who you are punishing with this is the students, they're the ones who get this aid."

The president is putting colleges in a lose-lose situation. If they comply, they cut jobs, hurting the economy, and cut school programs and renovations, diminishing academic opportunities. If they don't comply, the government cuts millions of government sponsored financial aid programs, thus hurting the underprivileged lower classes. Either way, Obama's plan, which sounds amazing on the surface, is financially irresponsible and hurts Americans.
Obama's proposal will set a dangerous precedent for government intervention in business and private affairs. The American Council on Education has already publicly denounced Obama's proposal for that very reason. If the government has the power to determine that education price controls are 'necessary', what's next?

In addition to forcing colleges to lower tuition rates, President Obama has also outlined a plan to alleviate the burden of college debt on Americans who took out student loans they can't pay back. Obama is going to pay for the college debt himself. The taxpayer money of parents who saved every penny to send their kids through college is going to be used to forgive the debt of those who were too irresponsible to pay it back themselves. Instead, the government should continue to hold students accountable for the debt they took out to pay for college tuition.

Specifically, the minimum percentage of income students must pay to the government yearly will be lowered from 15 percent to 10 percent. In lay terms, the government is allowing college students to further procrastinate on paying their debt. Second, and by far worse, the government is going to forgive student debt after 20 years. That means the government will absorb unpaid debt. Once again, I have to ask -- where does Obama plan on getting the money to pay for it? I don't believe middle-class students shouldn't be get higher education -- they should be able to -- but at a college they can afford.

With trillions of dollars in debt and government spending at an all-time high, the American government should be cutting spending, not using valuable taxpayer money to forgive the loans of one group of people.

President Obama keeps telling Americans that college education is necessary, but tells us nothing about where he is going to get the money to pay for it. No, Mr. President, money does not grow on trees! No matter how badly you want something, if you don't have the money, you can't have it. Sure, it would be great if the government could just absorb all college debt, in fact it would be great if the government could pay for everyone to get a college education -- because education truly is important -- but we have to be financially reasonable.

As is usual during election season, candidates are making absurd proposals to appeal to voters -- in this case, college students. I would love Obama to reduce college tuition, but forcing colleges to do so is not the way to do it. This will only hurt student's educational opportunities and force colleges to fire employees, hurting the economy. I would love Obama to alleviate the burden of college debts, but absorbing the costs is not the financially responsible decision. Obama's gimmick to get votes, if ever passed into law, is going to cost this country dearly.