In discussions about the merits and demerits of kollel, and in decisions about supporting people in kollel, there is a crucial factor that is often overlooked.
When someone is in kollel, in 99% of cases, this is not merely a personal direction for their own life. It also means that they are raising their children with kollel as the expected norm, with no secular education, and with no expectation that they will be self-supporting.
In other words, with the exception of kollels such as Torah MiTziyon, or the RIETS semicha kollel, kollel is usually part and parcel of a larger lifestyle choice. Here are some examples of scenarios in which this makes a big difference.
"I want to learn in kollel, and I'm willing to endure the hardships and take the risks."
It's all very well for you to make that choice, but what about your children? What options will be available to them, when they are raised without any general education and taught they are second-class citizens if they work?
"Are Torah scholars less worthy of Jewish communal support than scholars
of romance languages and literature, jazz music, or modern dance?"
Amongst many other differences, the university academic is not raising all his children with the expectation that they will also be university academics, and the lack of training or desire to do anything else.
"Chazal said that there is room for individuals to follow in the path of R. Shimon bar Yochai etc."
But Chazal also ruled that a person must teach his children a trade - no exceptions are made!
(Parent of kollel students:) "I'm doing a chessed for my kids. I can afford to support them in kollel. That's why I'm not pushing them to learn a career."
But can you afford to support all their children in kollel? Your kindness to your children is cruelty to your grandchildren!