Is It Time For Free College Education?
The Democrat Party’s progressive wing is beginning to lay out what causes they want to see pursued if a Democrat nominee wants their support in the 2016 Presidential election. In a broad sense, this is understandable since the two dozen or more GOP hopefuls will be airing a boat load of conservative proposals. Without any counter currents one would expect the Democrat nominee (most likely Hillary Clinton) to gravitate towards a slightly right of center position.
One of the early Progressive wants is free college education for all. Hmmm.
Advocates claim college education is the key to better paying jobs and the narrowing of income distribution inequality. It would also be especially valuable in breaking the cycle of poverty supporters claim. Progressives additionally call attention to the amount of debt the current average college graduate is accumulating and how long it will take to pay the loans off. But is this enough justification for free college education?
Maybe, maybe not.
For the maybe case, there are currently no good proposals on how to break either the poverty cycle or to narrow the income distribution inequality. So absent any other ideas, what’s wrong with at least considering free college education. (I must assume “free” means the same as “free” in K-12 public education.)
There are two reasons I can think of which say resoundingly “no” to free college education. They are:
- “Free college education” will simply lead to more kids hanging out in colleges studying courses which do not lead to employment opportunities or jobs above the minimum pay level. Current experience already shows that too many students are graduating with huge debts and still unable to find jobs.
- “Free college education” is not free. It will cost the nations billions and will represent lost opportunity cost for many other critical needs like infrastructure and healthcare.
Another way of considering “free”higher education to make the means (that is loans) available to anyone seeking study in approved institutions which themselves possess endowments below some amount per student capita (high endowment schools should be actively aiding prospective students). In return for these loans, students could upon graduation (1) repay in cash, (2) repay in public service (including a national peace corp-like program), or (3) repay by entering a line of professions and locating in areas designated in need of these services.
College Education for as many Americans who are willing to work for it is a cause to be proud and one that will return value to the country. “Free” is just not the best approach to liberate this value.