Friday, June 22 , 2018, 6:04 am | Overcast 60º


Robert Mercado: Proposal for a Free SBCC for Local Students Doesn’t Add Up

In a day when politicians are promising free health care, free food and free housing, the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College has followed suit and proposed free community college for all local graduating students.

Robert Mercado
Robert Mercado

On the surface, this seems like a great idea. That is, until you come to your senses and realize that nothing in life is free.

The SBCC foundation has a dream to make college education free for every student who wants and needs it from our local community college district. However, dreams are dreams, and it takes quite a bit of hard work to make them reality.

The hardest part of this feat is, of course, the allocation of money, because in the end, nothing in life is free.

According to the Santa Barbara City College website, it costs $3,088 per student for both tuition and books for a 30-unit school year. Of the 20,109 students now enrolled at SBCC, 60 percent come from within the SBCC district, which comes out to around 12,000 students.

If we were to pay all tuition and book costs for all these students, it would cost around $37 million per year.

So where would we get $37 million to pay for this program? The short answer is, of course, taxes.

The SBCC foundation does a fantastic job of fundraising for its own cause. However, according to its 2014-2015 financial report, the foundation was only able to raise $3.4 million in temporary restricted funds for the foundation.

That is a far cry from $37 million needed to fund this new program. So, we can naturally assume that tax money would be needed to cover the difference.

Believe it or not, all of that was the good news. We are of course under the assumption that we will only have 12,000 students attending SBCC. According to the SBCC foundation, only 44 percent of our district’s graduating seniors go on to attend SBCC.

The allure of free college is too great for young people, and we can only assume that more students would take advantage of this “free” program. Should 100 percent of graduating high school seniors take advantage of this program, we could expect around 27,000 local students to attend SBCC.

According to the math, we could expect the cost of this program to balloon to $84 million. Even worse, we haven’t even considered administration costs and other such expenses.

The State of California currently subsidizes the cost of tuition for all California students. In-state students pay $46 per unit for SBCC as opposed to $266 per unit for out-of-state students.

Yet, even with the subsidies, the cost of tuition has been steadily rising for several years. Our taxes never seem to be high enough to pay for the promised utopia.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to throw money to SBCC. After all, several of its professors currently make wonderful six-figure salaries.

The counter-argument, of course, is that we as a society pay for elementary schools, so why don’t we just pay for community college, as well? If money translated into good schools, then we should have the greatest schools on the planet.

The reality is that our local schools are under-performing. Our school boards are focused on pandering to teachers unions rather than giving our children the best education possible.

Our students are leaving high school unprepared for the world. As a result of poor performance, it now takes our students 14 grades to achieve what they use to achieve in 12 grades.

But hey, Free College!

— Robert Mercado is president of the Santa Barbara County Young Republicans.

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