FARMINGTON — The Portland Press Herald editorial board is much impressed by President Obama’s new educational initiative (“Our View: Maine would win with free community college,” Jan. 13).

Gov. LePage sees community college education as vital to the future prosperity of the state and nation, but is not at all impressed by the initiative. He told me last week that the promised federal for-free community college education is a “sucker play.”

The America’s College Promise plan would require Augusta to pay 25 percent while Washington pays 75 percent. To our governor, this means that the feds “print” money while leaving the state to tap the taxpayers.

Some journalists complain that Washington has provided no details on how it plans to pay its share of the estimated $60 billion cost of the community college proposal. This appears to be a pointless arithmetical exercise, since the federal share must either add to the national debt or diminish the funds available to pay that debt. In any case, Gov. LePage believes that Maine’s community college tuition is already within the reach of anyone determined to receive an education.

The governor and I will meet later this month or next, when I will summarize my 32 years of experience as a minor administrator and chalk-smeared classroom foot soldier at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. I have no master plan to offer, and do not claim comprehensive expertise on community colleges, but I can provide some relevant observations.

When I was first employed there in 1972, attrition was a major concern at MCC. About 40 percent of our freshmen were gone before their second year. This problem generated conferences, books, articles and discussions about reducing the loss. Many thought that getting students to choose a major might serve to engage and anchor them.

When I retired in 2014, the attrition rate was still around 40 percent, and the opinion prevailed that persuading students to ignore majoring and opt for a general liberal arts focus would reduce the loss. I have no expectation of improvement, since nationally less than 40 percent of students get a two-year degree within six years.

I made a habit of asking older students in my evening classes whether they had had previous experience in college and, if so, whether there was anything the institution could have done that might have induced them to continue until graduation. The unanimous response was “no,” because their younger selves had not been ready. This was not scientific polling, but the emphatic unanimity seems significant.

John Fitzsimmons, until recently president of the Maine Community College System, rejoiced at the prospect of a cash jolt to his budgets from passage of America’s College Promise. No blame attaches to him for this reaction. It arises from a common professional deformation among college administrators.

I’m reminded of a dozen “state of the college addresses” in which Middlesex County College presidents urged the faculty to write to their legislators demand funding for the state’s unfunded mandates under which the college labored.

None of them ever urged the faculty to write demanding elimination of those mandates. They were always happy to spend the money if the state could wring it from the taxpayers, but feared that raising tuition might reduce the student population.

I once heard MCC President Flora Mancuso Edwards tell a faculty meeting that “almost none” of the students enrolled in the English Department’s remedial course (RD010) ever graduated. She admitted that the program practically amounted to consumer fraud.

Still it went on, and still it goes on. Exclude all students who are too immature or incompetent and the budget shrinks, faculty jobs are lost, educational empires are diminished. Educators have the same DNA as the laity: They find self-sacrifice easier to admire than practice.

There’s something worse than the waste of money – I mean the time wasted by students who hang around without making much (if any) effort to educate themselves. Some find ways to loaf. Others stumble through to get a low-GPA degree of little real value.

Those who drop straight on out and get a job are better off. Some will come back when they are ready and get a serious education. Some of those who boast of getting a degree without real work may come to regret wasting their time, but no one repeats a course they’ve already passed in order to learn things they neglected the first time around.