“Free college for all” is not a new idea. Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders has been riding that horse since his failed election bid in 2016. New candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are also pushing the tuition-free college message.
Sadly, the suggestion that college should be free of charge is a nonsensical one. Advocates predicate their position on a series of false or, at the very least, unexamined beliefs. Here are just three of the bad arguments people make when arguing for free college tuition.
1. College is Necessary for Success
Contrary to popular belief, people succeed all the time without going to college. There are a number of famous college dropout success stories, and many dropouts now rank as some of the most successful men and women in the world. However, for many, simply being able to pay bills and enjoy economic stability is success enough.
According to the Brookings Institute, you do not need a college degree to break out of permanent poverty. In fact, the left-leaning Institute’s guide to secure entry into the middle class includes just three simple steps: graduate from high school, get a job, and get married before having babies. According to their research, 75 percent of people who followed these rules now make over $50,000 a year.
2. College is a Right
The promise of free college is much like the promise of free healthcare. The implied (and occasionally explicit) message is that higher education is a right. It isn’t. Attending college is a responsibility–one of the first young people encounter as they enter adulthood.
Making college “free” would significantly diminish its transitional role, essentially making it an extension of high school. Students would have no monetary skin in the game, and responsibility and accountability would invariably decrease. Skipping class is common enough when parents are footing the bill. If the cost of college is punted to an unknown and unseen conglomeration of taxpayers, enrollment will skyrocket. Attendance will drop.
3. College is Impossible to Afford
College is considerably more expensive than what previous generations have had to contend with. According to the College Board, the average cost of college tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school year was was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
However, this obstacle is not impossible to overcome. A wide range of financial aid packages, grants, loans, and scholarship options have sprung up alongside the rising cost of college. Organizations like Questbridge, The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation are all dedicated to making college affordable–even free–for low- to moderate-income families.
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The old saying goes “it’s rude to look a gift horse in the mouth,” and “free” anything always sounds good. However, many people making the case for mandating taxpayer-funded college willfully ignore reality. Beyond the fact that a college degree is not necessary for success, no one is entitled to higher education on someone else’s dime. This is especially true when there are copious foundations and organizations just clamoring to put hard-working students through school.