A Rhetorical Analysis Of “Obama’s Free College Plan Is No Panacea; Just Ask California” Essay Examples
The article argues that Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a valiant effort but it will not work. Their thesis is making community college free will not fix the problem. States must also deal with other issues like overcrowding and spend money to make sure they graduate. The essay focuses on problems caused by increased community college enrollment. The authors offer three reasons that argue for “explicitly directing resources to better support students” (Kurlaender and Jackson). Kurlaender and Jackson use statistics to strengthen their arguments. They use data as evidence and the essay has a sufficient and persuasive argument with strong logical force.
Their first rhetorical “lesson” focuses on “capacity constraints” and the limited availability of education (Kurlaender and Jackson). It is their strongest argument with data evidence and a strong premise. There is only so many courses to go around, and with many new students, you will need more courses, which will cost money. States have limited educational budgets, and research suggests that economic cutbacks since the recession of 2008 have created higher demand for programs like nursing, making them harder to get into. Education is a scarce resource and important for people to have, and there is not enough to go around. Therefore, they conclude that if you offer more students the opportunity to attend community college, the overall quality and availability of the educational resources will decline. With new students, you need more investment in the educational institutions themselves. Just offering free tuition will create an efficiency problem. There are only a “limited number of slots,” therefore the Obama program will have to invest money in more classes, more professors and more campuses (Kurleander and Jackson). This is a sufficient and logical economic argument. By opening up the floodgates of the community colleges, the actual quality of the education may decline.
Their second “lesson” learned from the California community college system is low graduation rates. Many students start community college, fewer graduate, and much less transfer or graduate from a four year school. They offer statistics that show a majority of students do not earn a degree. Since most students go to college to get a degree, to get a job, then the system is not working well if less than half graduate. Their premise is that graduation is more important than simply enrollment. Attendance is good, but graduation is the goal. It is an effective argument that is hard to reject.
Their third “lesson” is about “persistence rates” (Kurleander and Jackson). This is their weakest argument. Kurlaender and Jackson argue that a free education is easier to walk away from, because the student has invested nothing in their education. The authors offer no real evidence or statistics that show students motivation in dropping out school. A free education may have a “lower cost of leaving” (Kurleander and Jackson). However, it would be difficult to prove why California has such a low student retention and graduation rate without research studies or data. Something free is cheaper to walk away from, because the students do not “lose” their tuition, but to attribute a high attrition rate to free tuition may not be a solid argument. For evidence to support their arguments, the authors again use persistence statistics. For example, by their second year, only half of students are left in school. The authors rely on statistics to show that many students do not get very far in the education, without discussing why these students drop out. The authors conclude that students drop out because it was not their investment in the first place. There is no evidence to prove this conclusion.
In “Obama’s free college plan is no panacea; just ask California,” Kurlaender and Jackson are warning against making community colleges free, because many students may never graduate because of lack of support and resources. Their thesis suggests that many attend community college in California, but many do not graduate. This makes the public investment in their education a waste of resources. However, there are two weaknesses in their argument. First, not every state is like California. And two, it is difficult to determine why students drop out of school. Overall, the essay uses a lot of evidence and is persuasive. The Obama plan could be improved by recognizing weaknesses and problems in the California Community College system.
Kurlaender, Michael, and Jacob Jackson. "Obama's Free College Plan Is No Panacea; Just Ask California." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.