All Articles Tagged "President Obama"
This story is ancient in pop culture news terms. But it’s new to me and just too adorable not to share. So here I am bringing it to you, on the off chance that it might have slipped under the radar for you too.
Remember back in 2012, when President Obama was running for re-election he and First Lady Michelle Obama were having dinner with voters? Well, President Obama being the charismatic dude that he is, he shared a very charming story about the time he had to style his eldest daughter’s hair.
My favorite story out of this is Malia, when she was 4, she had a little dance thing. Well, Michelle was gone that weekend so I’m taking her to ballet. And I get her in her little leotard and her little stuff. I did her hair, put it in a little bun.
We get to the dance studio and one of the mothers there right away comes up to Malia – she thinks she’s out of earshot of me and she says, ‘Sweetie, do you want me to redo your hair?’ And Malia who she’s 4 says, ‘Yes please, this is a disaster’ you know, she didn’t want to hurt daddy’s feelings.
I love this story because I’ll forget the week my mother was out of town visiting her brother, my uncle, in California. I remember it for basically one reason and one reason only. It was the first and last time my dad was left to style me and my sister’s hair for school that week.
The first day I naively thought that since my dad was go great at everything else he did with us, doing our hair would be the same. I was sadly mistaken. Not only does my father have large and heavy hands, he had absolutely no idea how to style our hair like our mother did.
But that didn’t stop him from putting up a good front. That morning before school he asked us what we wanted. I was about 8 and by this time I’d had a relaxer for a few years. And since it had been a while since I’d been to the shop, my hair was too old to be worn down. So I told him I wanted a ponytail.
My father’s hands trying to scoop up the strands of my hair felt like mallets clunking against my scalp. It was anything but pleasant. And on Tuesday, I told him I’d do my own hair. My sister, who is just under two years younger than me, whose hair wasn’t relaxed, just had to suffer until my mom came back home.
Needless to say, after a week of me attempting to protect my scalp and my father struggling with my sister’s three staple braids, we were looking rough…real rough when we picked my mom up from the airport.
We all look back on that week and laugh. Those are some pretty fond memories, even if it was less than amusing when I was going to school looking crazy.
Did your father ever have to do your hair for some reason? How did he do?
So Michelle Obama was on the Ellen DeGeneres show and apparently she’s all about the “Uptown Funk.”
If you haven’t seen the video, it is likely because you are legally blind. And I mean that both figuratively and literally as the video has been everywhere. But for the sake of this post, I offer this brief synopsis: it’s a video of the FLOTUS in some white very wide-legged sailor pants doing some sort of choreographed routine with the cast from “So You Think You Can Dance” to the wildly popular Morris Day and the Time’s…er…I mean, Bruno Mars’ track, “Uptown Funk.”
It is cute because it is awkward. And yet as awkwardly cute as it is, the routine, which is said to have mark the fifth anniversary of her ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, is all kinds of tired.
Yeah, I said it.
And I say it lovingly and with the utmost of respect for the First Lady (except for those pants she had on because I hated them with the passion of 10 presidential veto powers). With that said, Michelle Obama has spent most of her time in public office as a dancing machine. And I honestly think it’s time that we allow this woman to hang up the tap shoes and enjoy the political show from a comfortable seat on the sidelines.
But she probably won’t. And according to The Daily Mail UK, the First Lady will be performing the routine at least one more time on the front lawn of the White House during the annual Easter Egg Roll. Oh goody. More awkward dancing…
It all started with the 2007 election when her husband, then Senator Barack Obama, was forced to bust an uncomfortable move with Ellen DeGeneres in order to win votes. The following year – and only two months before the general election- FLOTUS would again be compelled to drum up votes by also doing a two-step with Ellen. Thankfully, the election season ended and we would soon be spared the embarrassment of having to watch mostly White people force The Obamas to dance – at least for a short while.
In 2011, Michelle would get all footloose again, but this time around, it wasn’t votes she was after. Rather her happy feet were in support of her Let’s Move Initiative. And instead of two-stepping with Ellen, the First Lady did the Dougie with the kids from the Alice Deal Middle School in D.C. Naturally, the public ate it up.
And why wouldn’t they? Michelle is the hip, cosmopolitan and young mother who isn’t afraid to show her arms and doesn’t wear Mom jeans. Likewise, there was a political gain to be had. If you recall, the anti-obesity program was taking a serious beating in the press by mostly right-leaning conservatives, who took issue with Michelle’s tampering with the nutritional value of the public child lunch programs. As such, her dancing provided a nice way to refocus the program to the much more politically- safe topic of physical activity.
And it worked. Michelle would celebrate the second anniversary of the anti-childhood obesity program by dancing across four state in a three day tour. In 2012, she returned to Ellen again to not only dance but have a push-up challenge. In 2013, she did the Evolution of Mom Dance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Also that year, Michelle “freeze danced” with the kids of Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., did a Bollywood bop with guests at the White House’s Diwali celebration, raised the roof with young contest winners during a Kids’ State Dinner, and cut-a-rug with tennis champ Serena Williams.
The dancing continued in 2014 including at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities event at the White House, during another appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and at another Let’s Move event where she did the salsa with former “Saved By the Bell” alum Mario López. She would end last year by releasing a Vine video of her chair dancing with a turnip to Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” For a second there, I thought Michelle was dropping a hint to the world that she would finally be taking that much deserved seat. But she would continue to channel Debbie Allen this year with her latest viral foxtrot with Ellen.
I know that it is common practice for politicians (including their families) to want to show us that they are human and embarrassing just like the rest of us. It is a huge way that they build social capital. While I imagine there are some – a handful at least – politicians who hope to spend their times in Washington taking care of the business we elected them to do, the reality is that many of their own constituents doubt both their actual sincerities and abilities to do their jobs unless we see them engage in some sort of stupid human trick like drinking beers with babies or eating an Italian hoagie while doing the Macarena.
This need to establish and maintain social capital is especially true of the Obamas who have garnered quite a reputation on the Hill for being both anti-social and a bit snobby. As noted by Todd Purdum in this Vanity Fair piece from 2013:
“Successive flights of frustrated senior aides to both the president and the First Lady have battled the Obamas’ persistent assumption that supporters (and staffers, for that matter) don’t need to be thanked—a battle fought largely in vain. Five years into their tenure, the couple has a social reputation few would have envisioned when they came to town: more standoffish than the Bushes, and ruder than the Clintons.”
It’s hard to say how much of that reputation is earned and how much of it is a shield meant to protect them against some pretty aggressive racism, including the micro and passive-aggressive kind. Or even if their alleged attitudes are even the problem at all?
For the most part, President Obama has been a pretty moderate leader. He definitely hasn’t been the reformer many had hoped he’d be in 2008. Yet that hasn’t stopped the right, as well as some within his own party, from trying to paint him as some sort of radical Black, Islamic militant named Barack X. This kind of racism, which has plagued much of the Obamas two-terms in the White House is not unusual to Black America. And the constant cultural maligning as being angry and confrontational tends to create anxiety and doubt within some of us, to the point that we are overcompensating in our genteelness in order to appear non-threatening to non-Black people.
Some of us smile more. Some of us speak in lowered and hushed tones (if at all). Some of us manipulate other behaviors and compromise a bunch while some of us try to become different people all together. And then there are some of us who will dance until White people relax.
Not sure how much the Obamas embodies the latter, but both are highly skilled and intelligent people. I’m certain we can talk to them about anything. This is particularly true of Michelle, who prior to the White House, had her own thriving career as a civil rights attorney. And yet the only use we can find for her to do is the electric slide of the White House front lawn…
“You Should See What The Senate Says About Me”: President Obama Reads ‘Mean Tweets’ From Twitter Trolls On “Jimmy Kimmel Live”
If you’re familiar with “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” I’m sure you know about the “Mean Tweets” segment the show does sometimes. It involves pretty big celebrities growing thick skin and actually reading the harsh criticism lobbed their way by people on Twitter. A lot of the time musicians sit down and read the tweets, and the results are usually hilarious. But this time, the commander-in-chief of the free world sat down to read a few of the things Twitter users had to say about his work as president, his incessant love of golfing, his ears and why certain frivolous things cost so much money under his presidency.
President Obama had a good attitude about the whole thing though, even laughing at some of the criticisms and correcting the grammar of others, proving, as always, that he’s #unbothered by the haters. As he told Kimmel after the segment, “You should see what the senate says about me.”
I’ve read a lot worse online about the POTUS (Daily Mail and NBC News commenters are pretty much a hate group against him), so it’s safe to say that they didn’t pick from the “complete ignorance” batch. Still, it was a fun clip to watch.
Check out how President Obama handles the jokes and jabs for yourself below:
“It Was An Insult”: Civil Rights Leader Diane Nash Left Selma March Reenactment Because George W. Bush Was There
Activist Diane Nash, 76, was a major player in the civil right’s movement. A student leader who decided to fight for change after experiencing extreme segregation at Fisk University, Nash was co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Nash was also a Freedom Rider, took part in some of the first sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, and her organizing efforts as one of the leaders of the SNCC helped blacks in Alabama obtain the right to vote through the Alabama Voting Rights Project, as well as the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
But when President Obama and his family, along with many Civil Rights figures, congressmen and everyday people took part in the restaging of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma this past weekend, Nash refused to march. Why? Because former President George W. Bush was there.
According to The Root, Nash told an audience of people taking part in a commemoration of the work of civil rights foot soldiers that Bush’s presence at the event was inappropriate. As she put it, that march was supposed to stand for peace and nonviolence, and Bush represents the complete opposite.
“I was all set to march with them. They had me on the front line. And then George Bush came out and got in the march, and I left. I decided I wasn’t marching anywhere with George Bush. The Selma movement stands for nonviolence and peace and democracy and fairness and voting rights, and George Bush stands for just the opposite. He stands for violence and war and stolen elections and for goodness sake, his administration had people tortured. I think this occasion was not appropriate for him to be at. I think for him to appear to be leading people involved in the nonviolent movement in this country, for photographs of that to go across the world, would make it look as though we have sold out. I think that is an insult to people whose lives were taken…it’s an insult to me. And I think it’s an insult to everybody who does believe in nonviolence.”
Yes, Bush was there, but you might not have known that since the former president and his wife, Laura, marched near the outer edge of the bridge. Plus, most photos from that event cropped Bush out since he wasn’t really anywhere near President Obama and his family during the actual march. Such cropping reportedly enraged Republicans, but then again, it doesn’t take much to heat them up.
So while Nash isn’t criticizing the choice of others to take part in the march, she was not okay with the idea of being part of anything about nonviolence that included the former president. Check out her thoughts in full:
I’m sorry, but I’m having a difficult time feeling inspired by what some in the media are calling a “powerful and poignant” speech made by President Obama during the 50th commemoration of the historic walk through Selma, Alabama. Not when Black people like Kevin McGill are still being harassed and imprisoned and it all appears to be sanctioned by the state.
According to ABC News 7:
“A sanitation worker in an Atlanta suburb is behind bars for getting to work too early. Kevin McGill was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating a Sandy Springs ordinance that says workers can only haul trash between the hours of 7am and 7pm. McGill was cited for picking up the trash just after 5am one morning. He says he could not believe when the prosecutor asked the judge for the maximum punishment.
“I was stunned. I didn’t know what to think. I was shocked,” he said.
The prosecutor, Bill Riley, makes no apologies for locking sanitation workers up.
“Fines don’t seem to work,” Riley said.
He says they are a nuisance to sleeping residents. McGill had only been on the job for three months.
Now he has to spend the next 14 weekends in jail, while he works during the week… after 7am.”
This small town Georgia prosecutor sounds like a terrorist, who is using the justice system to inflict as much personal retribution and paternalism his little evil heart can dish. And it is not only costing the taxpayers (who will foot a sizable portion of McGill’s stay in county), but also McGill who more than likely be hit with not only court fees, but might now have to explain to all his future employers his brief time in jail – that’s if he can get past the application process.
Of course, the bigger tragedy here is that these stories about how poor (and that includes the working poor) and Black people are abused by law enforcement and our court system are not unusual in America. The Ferguson report is proof of that. And yet McGill’s story is treated incidentally and told almost in a humorous fashion. There is no exposé into the local district attorney’s office or questions asked about the actual ethics of his prosecution or even commentary about the larger question of prosecutorial abuse. That aspect of the story, and stories like it, are always glossed over. Always.
Just like in President Obama’s Selma speech.
In most of the mainstream press, President Obama drew particular high praises for beautifully articulating both the spirit and struggle associated with the Civil Rights era. In particular, he points how marchers were often condemned as “communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them.”
“As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.
We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.”
And yet many would argue that the march has continued on into Ferguson, New York, L.A., Cleveland and other points ravaged by police abuse and violence – an issue which only seems to have gotten considerably worse over the last 50 years. In fact, more Black men are in prisons today than there were in the time pre-Civil Rights era.
In the speech President Obama acknowledges these injustices, as well as the findings in the Ferguson report. He also reminds us that these injustices are “ woefully familiar” and “evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.”
But in the next breath, President Obama then argues that things have gotten better since Selma. And that Ferguson is not “endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom like it was pre-Civil Rights Movement.” More specifically he tells the crowd:
“We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.”
It is true that we have Black CEOs running Fortune 500 companies and gay Black friends who are now able to say they’re gay openly, but the real question is how many of those Black CEOS and gay Black friends can walk the streets freely without threat or fear of harassment by the police based solely off the color of their skin? I bet if we posed that question to the same groups, very few would speak of progress.
The point here is that what happened in Selma was more than about getting across the bridge to register to vote, just like what happened Ferguson is more than about a single kid who was mercilessly killed in the street by an overzealous police officer. But rather those marches were an indictment of an entire predatory system, which not only views Black people as subhuman. but also actively treats Black people like profit and revenue.
The same predatory system of oppression, which created peonage and sent many of our ancestors post-slavery and Reconstruction right back into bondage. The same predatory system, which created literary tests, taxes and engaged in flat-out fraud to deny people’s constitutional right to vote. And the same predatory system, which today continues to punish and exploit people like McGill, whose only real crime is being Black under the jurisdiction of a white man with an ax to grind.
What happened in Selma and in Ferguson wasn’t just about all colors of people uniting and fighting to change America. But both those narratives were and are also about state-sponsored violence. We should speak that. We should speak that entire truth.
In the speech, President Obama spoke favorably of the young people throughout history, particularly the young people in Soweto, Burma, Tusnia and the kids in Ferguson who’d risen up in similar fashion to demand change. He also acknowledged that true progress, “requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.”
And yet as President Obama waxed poetic about the bravery of the young disruptors of the status quo, he fails to mention the responsibility his office holds in disruption of this status quo and facilitating progress. Instead he treats himself as an outsider and an observer pointing out everybody else’s burdens and responsibilities. Almost as if to say, you rainbow-colored bunch of young people keep on marching and I guess someone will eventually come along and be bold about things. Someday.
As clearly, it will not be now and with this president. As pointed out by Dr. Stacey Patton in Dame Magazine:
“As MSNBC reports, Obama fielded a question about why the DOJ didn’t charge Wilson by saying that, “he had ‘complete confidence and [stood] fully behind’ the DOJ’s decision regarding Wilson, whom said he killed Brown in self-defense. “We may never know exactly what happened, but Officer Wilson—like anyone else who is charged with a crime—benefits from due process and a reasonable-doubt standard,” Obama said. “If there is uncertainty about what happened then you can’t just charge him anyway, just because what happened was tragic,” Obama added, noting that it was “an objective, thorough, independent federal investigation.”
And in many respects, seeing the nation’s first Black president being lead across the Edmund Pettus bridge by motorcade is a powerful symbol of King Jr.’s realized dream. Likewise, listening to him evoke the names of Sojourner Truth, Mary Lou Hamer, Langston Hughes, John Lewis, among others is nothing short of magical.
But shit is real out here and we are way past the point of symbolism. And the commemoration of Selma was the perfect time for Obama to talk about what he and Eric Holder could be doing in their last days to fix policies and make both the prosecution and dismantling of these rogue police departments possible. Instead he takes the political coward’s way out and tells everyone to go vote instead.
The problem is that we all did: for you.
In case you haven’t noticed, BuzzFeed is out for total world domination. And after this latest stunt they just pulled, it might be time to concede the title.
Today, the site dropped a bomb on the internet. (Did that elicit an image of poop in the toilet for anyone else?) Anyway, they released another one of their hilariously accurate videos starring the one and only President Barack Obama.
I’m going to get off BuzzFeed’s jock in just a minute, but let that sink in. They had the “leader of the free world” star in a video they posted on YouTube and Facebook.
Now, that’s gangster… and President Obama is just a cool dude.
So, in this particular video we watch Obama and BuzzFeed’s Andrew Ilnyckyj do things that all people do but won’t admit…and of course it’s a plug for Healthcare.
Just watch it, it’s cute.
Chicago’s Beloved Jackie Robinson West Little League Team Stripped Of U.S. Title Due To Cheating Coach, Administrators
The first African American Little League team to win the National Championship has had their title stripped over rule violations. Sadly, rules were violated by the adults, and the kids are paying the price for it.
According to ESPN, Little League Baseball has suspended the coach of the Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West team because he recruited ineligible players who lived outside of the appropriate geographical area (the Washington Heights neighborhood) that the team represents. It was found that a falsified boundary map was used to find players, and that the coach, and others, worked together to bring players from neighboring areas and teams to Jackie Robinson West.
Because of his decision, the boys of Jackie Robinson West have lost the U.S. Championship title they worked so hard for, and it has been given to the team they beat–the Mountain Ridge Little League team from Las Vegas.
The Little League President and CEO, Stephen D. Keener, said it was a heartbreaking decision, but after investigating, it was one that had to be made.
“Quite honestly, we had to do this. We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … As painful as this is, it’s a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm.
The real troubling part of this is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved with this. Certainly, no one should cast any blame, any aspersions on the children who participated on this team. To the best of our knowledge, they had no knowledge that they were doing anything wrong. They were just kids out playing baseball, which is the way it should be. They were celebrated for that by many, many organizations, many people. What we’re most concerned about today is that it’s going to be hard on these kids. And that’s the part that breaks your heart.”
Watching this team skyrocket, beat Mountain Ridge, win the U.S. Championship, make it to the Little League World Series and come so close to winning that (they lost to South Korea in the Championships), it definitely sucks that things turned out like this. These boys were the darlings (as well as Mo’ne Davis) of the whole World Series, as they were the first African American team to compete in the tournament in many years, let alone get to the Championships. Afterwards, they were invited to the White House and met both President Obama and Michelle.
But after all that, including the parade upon their return to Chicago and being seen as heroes, this is how it all ends. The team will be stripped of their wins from last year’s Little League Baseball International Tournament, including their regional and finals wins. And not only has the coach been suspended, so has the manager, Darold Butler. And Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly was fired, as he was supposed to verify the eligibility of the players. According to Keener:
“During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.”
President Obama is marking the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by setting aside $50 million to restore various civil rights areas nationwide as part of a $4 trillion budget he just sent to Congress for approval.
Among the sites is the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. This is the location of “Bloody Sunday” in which police viciously attacked attack by civil rights demonstrators, as portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Selma. “Bloody Sunday” helped push the 1965 Voting Rights Act forward. The act “banned the use of literacy tests, added federal oversight for minority voters and allowed federal prosecutors to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections,” reports The Grio.
According to the White House, the funding will be used for museum collections, oral histories and online access to collections.
Obama’s funding request also includes improvements at Arkansas’s Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site located in Atlanta.
It was at Central High that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to send in federal troops in 1957 to escort nine Black children to the school. It is actually is still a working school in addition to being a national historical site. The King Historical Site includes King’s birthplace, churches and grave.
Obama is scheduled to visit Alabama in March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Most consumers want to know right away when there has been a security breach at a retailer they frequent. But often times it takes weeks–or even months–for the retailer to disclose they have been the victim of a cyber attack.
Now President Obama has proposed a 30-day time limit for companies to disclose security breaches. According to the White House, Obama will call for new laws to make sure American companies tell their customers about consumer information being stolen in hack attacks, reports The New York Times.
Obama just proposed the new law, to be called the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, during his recent speech at the Federal Trade Commission.
“If the proposal becomes law, the discovery of a breach would trigger a ’30-day shot clock’ requiring companies to disclose information. The law will also make it a crime to sell a person’s information overseas. The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, will be empowered to issue penalties to companies that fail to comply,” reports The Next Web.
Obama discussed another important issue: student privacy. “The president also proposed the Student Data Privacy Act, which would prohibit technology firms from profiting from information collected in schools as teachers adopt tablets, online services and Internet-connected software. And he will announce voluntary agreements by companies to safeguard home energy data and to provide easy access to credit scores as a ‘early warning system’ for identity theft,” reports The New York Times.
But Obama’s proposals might face some obstacles when facing the Republican-controlled Congress.
By now you might have heard the news that President Obama wants to make college free, at least for the first couple of years.
According to the fact sheet on White House.gov, the America’s College Promise proposal aims to provide free college, up to two years, for “responsible” American students. The proposal is estimated to save 9 million students, on average, $3,800 in tuition per year.
As the White House writes about the “whys” of this proposal:
“By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s ecegree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations. They are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. For many students, they offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. They are also uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing, health information technology, and advanced manufacturing.”
According to the proposal, students with a GPA of 2.5 or above and who are already attending college half-time will be eligible to have their tuitions waived. Likewise, the program aims to work with community colleges to help them offer “programs that either (1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or (2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers.”
The proposal doesn’t say specifically how it plans to pay for the tuition waivers, which is estimated to cost $60 million over a decade. However, the White House writes that it is hoping to partner with interested states and will reimburse them for seventy-five percent of tuition costs for each individual student.
Admittedly, I haven’t been the biggest fan of all of the president’s policies; however, I must tip my hat to him for taking on such an ambitious proposal. If he is able to pull this off, he might be the most socially progressive president in our history. And that is a big “if.”
First, what I do like about the program is that it acknowledges what has long been a widely-known, but closely-held secret among many students and even faculty at four-year institutions: the first two-years of college are kind of bullshit. Okay, not exactly…
But there is a reason why most college guidance counselors advise students, particularly those who have yet to decide their majors, to explore and sample a variety of disciplines in your first couple of years in college before committing to a program in your final two years.
Personally speaking, I loved my humanities, political science and sociology classes. They added much needed perspective to my learning experience. However, there were other classes, which felt more like refreshers from high school. And while those classes were also helpful, I didn’t feel like they should have cost the same amount, per credit, as classes, which were more directly related to my major.
And this is important to note, as my tuition costs for the first two years of classes, which were unrelated to my major, started around $12 thousand. (That number includes on-campus living expenses.) That was the cost in the late ‘90‘s. Well over a decade later and the price of higher education has risen to astronomical levels. Even worse than the cost of college is the questionable job market, which in spite of its recovery, fails to produce sustainable incomes to college students upon graduation. This is important to highlight as American students are currently over $1 trillion dollars in debt and it is starting to have an effect on the overall economy, according to this article in Time magazine. Therefore, this proposal has the potential to make a four-year educational experience more cost-effective, which means less student loans.
Not to mention the proposal also seeks to make community college credits more easily transferrable to four-year institutions. As this report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education notes, both “affordability and transfers” have long been major obstacles to four-year degree programs for over the 40 percent of all American students currently enrolled at community college.
Of course, this proposal is contingent on Congress’ approval and as Ben Miller, senior educational policy analyst at the New America Foundation tells the LA Times, “Anything involving more money to pay for things is going to be difficult in this Congress.”
Likewise there are concerns about the impact such a change will have on cheapening standards at traditional four-year universities and colleges. Public eduction advocate Diane Ravitch highlighted some of the opposition to the White House’s proposal on her personal blog. In particular, she references a letter she received from a college faculty member working at a university in Tennessee, which already offers free tuition for two years at community colleges. More specifically, the faculty member notes:
“Here is a concrete example from my university, The University of Memphis (UofM), that should give a pause to the celebration of free higher education. Last year, shortly after the announcement of a $20 million cut to UofM’s budget, came the announcement of Tennessee Promise that offers free education to all TN residents at public community colleges. In my opinion, TN Promise is a perfect example for taking money away from high quality education (UofM, in this case), and use the extra funds to invest in low quality education (community colleges). Then this lower quality education is offered to the masses as a solution to their educational needs.
To make the high-to-low quality education transformation explicit, I remark that we at UofM are now pressured to start accepting lower level courses to our major requirements to “ease the transition of students from community colleges to our university.”
In addition to the questions of who will pay for it and the impact such a proposal will have on traditional four-year institutions, I do also wonder the impact this proposal will have specifically on historically Black colleges and universities. Recent federal changes to the Pell Grant and to student loan qualifications have been really tough on many HBCUs that largely serve an economically-insecure student body who rely on federal assistance. This proposal has the potential to financially cripple those institutions even more by transferring a big chunk of dollars into the hands of community colleges.
Hopefully, the White House can get those issues sorted before – and if – this becomes an actual program. Or else the old adage about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions might ring true…