Free college is a fantastic theoretical idea. It should allow students of low-income families to be helped greatly in the total expense of college, allowing them the same chance at higher education risk-free, right? The answer is not quite that simple. “Free college” would help higher-income families vastly more than it would those of lower income. “Free college” would be a disaster simply because it would provide help where it is not needed and thus force everyone to pick up the tab.
The $700 billion plan of Bernie Sanders to make public college free for all Americans sounds life-changing, in theory. However, in the real world, “free college” would help the wealthy vastly more than those of a lower economic status. As Steve Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago states, “all of the benefits go to the people who have money.” It is mere common sense that the people at the top, who already are paying full-tuition would benefit the most from free college. This as opposed to those of lower economic statuses, who pay comparably miniscule tuitions for the same or similar schools. As Catherine Hill, the president of Vassar College says, “Even zero tuition wouldn’t eliminate the need for loans, since room, board and travel expenses would still be a constraint for some students.” How can it be considered fair that “free college” would effectively make those who can and cannot afford college pay the same amount? This system is a theoretical heaven for those seeking a higher education, but the simple truth is that those at the top would gain all the real benefits, not those of the 99% who really need it the most.
The question that obviously must be posed following the simple fact that those at the top would benefit the most from free college is: why make everyone foot the bill that would disproportionately go to those at the top? If taxes were raised for all, everyone would essentially be paying the tuition for those of the elite economic status because those are currently the only tuitions that are not fully or mostly covered by existing federal financial aid. The system would just place a bigger burden via taxes on those already struggling to get by. Making college “free” for everyone would raise the taxes of all those in the system to the point where, over time, the difference of “free college” cannot even be discerned. This because college price will obviously skyrocket when it is made free as the demand will increase at an astronomical rate, according to many well-respected economists interviewed by NPR. Herein lies the unstoppable cycle of “free college”, in which the costs continue to skyrocket as demands increase, options decrease as private colleges die out, and taxes jump continually for all, hurting the people the system is designed to help the most.
The solution is clear, simply expand the abilities of federal financial aid in order to ensure that all families in any doubt financially will be able to afford college. In doing so, it will be ensured that the money gets to those who actually need it, as opposed to the wasteful option of giving a “free” ride to everyone. Extending federal financial aid to ensure that those who actually need the aid financially will be getting it is the clear solution, as it does not make everyone pay a massive, ever-expanding new tax. It also allows those who can afford college to pay for it on their own to prevent the demand and cost of college from skyrocketing.
A student hoping not to have to pay massive, never ending taxes when he graduates college