Free tuition?: Western Technical College president weighs in on complicated Biden proposal

Biden administration American Families Plan calls for free community college, Western's president says there's more to the cost of education
Free Community College

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan proposes free college tuition for students at community colleges. Who wouldn’t want a free college education? However, Western Technical College President Roger Stanford said free education is more complicated when you add context.

“The realism part I think there’s so much to figure out yet,” Stanford said.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and a group of lawmakers reintroduced The America’s College Promise Act Tuesday. It would be paid for by the federal government chipping in three dollars for every one dollar a state puts into the program.

Rep. Ron Kind said they can’t stop at making college more affordable.

“We need to address student loan debt which is a real burden on most people today,” Kind said.

However, every state follows different rules and tuition varies depending on where students go. If this is not handled right it could place Western’s budget in the red.

“Our tuition is pretty low, but then if you go to Oregon and their tuition is double ours for the technical college, or you go to California and they’re cheaper than ours,” Stanford said. “What’s the equalizer there? Do they treat it like Medicaid and just say we are going to pay this rate and that’s 30 percent of our cost? Then I can’t do it honestly, because we would be at a total deficit then.”

Then there’s the cost of other things that don’t count as tuition.

“Biden to say free college sounds good, but then there is books and materials,” Stanford said. “The other struggle with students is they gotta rent someplace, they gotta have someplace to live.”

Kind said the country has the means to offer more students affordable college options.

“When you have 55 of the biggest companies in America paying zero taxes, contributing nothing to the success that they’re enjoying in our nation, that’s wrong,” Kind said.

Stanford agrees government-sponsored tuition opens more doors for underprivileged students.

“I think education itself is the greatest gift we give toward social mobility, which is lifting people up to the next level,” Kind said.

The question now becomes, who will pay for the free opportunities.

What it will come down to is how fiscally is this paid? What does this mean for national debt?

Stanford said high school students should decide what jobs pay in specific degree fields before they select a college. He said their choice can prevent students from spending money that doesn’t get them the best return for their investment.