Would Obama’s volunteer proposal work?


It sounds like a great plan: To every college student who volunteers at least 100 hours a year give a $4000 tax credit that would be paid directly to that student’s college.

Having just had a student in college – my husband – I can say that a $4000 credit on the UT tuition bill would have been a tremendous help. In fact, that would have covered just about all his classes, leaving out parking, books, and other fees. He didn’t live on campus so there were no dorm expenses.

Because he was a more “mature” student, he didn’t quite fit into the role. While study groups met around dinner time, my husband was busy “meeting” with his wife and son. When he got injured and had to visit the campus doctor, they wouldn’t let me come in to the examining room due to a policy designed to protect a student’s privacy – no matter my husband was way older than 21 and I was his wife, not his mother. Also, professors would wait until the last minute to provide the dates and locations of overnight geological field trips, which was fine if you slept in your school clothes but more difficult if you were trying to arrange child care.

 So when I read about Obama’s proposal, I automatically thought, “Define student. Define volunteer . Define college.”

I know a surge of fresh, energetic volunteers would be a boon to nonprofits across the country. But I also start to think… wait. Who’s the nonprofit staff person who’s going to have to keep track and report those hours?

There would have to be a system, people! Is creating, maintaining, supporting, and standing up for that system worth the effort? Is this finally a sensible proposal to build volunteerism or would it be more burden than benefit?


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