Free Higher Education is Not the Answer
The best way to give everyone equal opportunity and stimulate economic growth is not by making higher-level education free.
Dear Next President,
I am a high-school student that is has to be prepared to deal with the debt that is going to come with getting the college education I need. I have parents who have saved for me, I have scholarships that I will apply for, and I have plans to take out loans. When I complete college, my debt will be the reason I need a job right after I graduate. Paying off my loans will be the top priority for my first few years in the real world. It won’t be something I enjoy doing, however it is better than the alternative of paying income taxes of 50% or more for the entirety of my working life. That is what it would be if public post-secondary education was paid for by the government, right? It's a good thing that I will pay for my own way rather than burdening everyone else. Now I may be seen as fortunate, as others have less. It is believed they don’t have the same opportunity to succeed as I may. But I believe the way to stimulate economic growth and promote an equal opportunity for all is not by making public higher education free.
Making college free would increase enrollment rates. That means more kids eating and boarding. That means larger cafeterias and new large dorm rooms. That means colleges will need more classrooms. That means there will be high student to teacher ratios. That means the costs will increase and quality will decrease. Where will the funding come from? Simply “the government.” But that's just code. Saying the government will pay separates someone from reality. The reality that the government gets their money from taxes and those taxes come from the people. The cost isn't going away for the people, rather it's rising. Everyone regardless if they attend, will be paying for everyone else, in the entirety of the lifetime through taxes. Not to mention the fact that colleges will increase funding requests simply because the federal government is footing the bill rather than a student they are trying to attract.
What happens when the government doesn't give schools the growing funds they need? In any recession will millions of kids be turned away at admissions because colleges can't afford to accommodate for them? Isn't that what has already happened at community colleges in California during a recession? Half a million kids were denied access to community colleges? Even though college was free, these half million kids didn't get the opportunity that activists seem to promise.
Everyone deserves a high quality education. Children should be allowed to dream they can achieve anything. Dreamers may get discouraged by the reality of loans, but they would get squashed with the solutions proposed.