During last night’s debate, I was really looking forward to hearing Clinton and Trump’s thoughts on education. The whole of education too, not just college. But, as usual, there wasn’t much discussion at all. And college — more specifically, college loan debt — was the only subject that received even remotelysubstantive (if you can call it that) attention.
Ah well. 2020, I guess…
At any rate, I’m genuinely curious about hearing all arguments on this proposal of free college tuition. As someone who, ten years post-graduation, still pays a monthly loan bill, I’m intimately aware of the problematic nature of our current system. The price tag for a bachelor’s degree is ludicrous on its face.
When former Texas Governor, Rick Perry, famously exhorted the public universities of Texas to come up with a Bachelor’s degree that would only cost $10,000, I thought he meant 10k per year. That would have been a steal compared to the private university I had attended. He hadn’t meant that – he meant ten grand in toto. (Perry’s dream remains just that, FYI.)
We can probably all agree that yoking 22-year-olds to six-figure debt loads is a bad idea. Okay, check.
But is free public school tuition the solution?
My first qualm is that this is morally questionable. Because not everyone wants, needs, or can attend college. There are loads of careers (entrepreneurship amongst them) that do not require a 4-year degree. Additionally, there are millions of 18-year-olds who simply do not want to attend college, or feel it’s not the right place for them.
Yet if we make tuition “free,” it’s not really that at all. It means the government will fund it. And that means it will be paid for through taxes.
And that means millions of Americans who will not personally benefit from their own college diplomas will pay for the increased salaries of their smarter/more privileged/more motivated/just plain luckier/etc. peers.
I do not like that. I really don’t.
Additionally, behavioral studies seem to consistently prove that we don’t highly value things that are free. We value things that we work for, that cost us something.
And if there’s not price tag to school, there’s less incentive to graduate in a timely fashion.
Also, huge institutions that the government runs/funds (the V.A. comes to mind..) do not always run very well. They are not economically efficient, and their customers are often unhappy (at best).
But! I recognize that my opinions here are one-sided. So I’m hoping to open a dialogue with several people more knowledgable than myself, on both sides of this debate, to bring a full argument for and against free public university tuition for all.
Stay tuned. And by all means, add your thoughts in the comments section! (I read and appreciate them.)