Free College Harms More Than It Helps

Indri Schaelicke | @ISchaelicke

It’s midterm season, meaning that the lore of socialism is gripping every voter’s conscience. Socialists have added the misnomer “democratic” to their political identification in hopes of persuading the last few sane voters that their ideology is rooted in the same false peace and prosperity that Americans believe the United States is.

Among many, there are several socialist policies that appeal to constituents. Chief among these is the prospect of fully government subsidized, tuition-free college. Proponents of a free secondary education program advocate for such a measure because the price of attending university for has steadily increased over the recent years.
Courtesy of College Board

While this is true, they fail to realize that the reason the price of college is climbing is due to government intervention in the secondary education market. As colleges add more amenities and luxuries to appeal to prospective students, the cost of these upgrades must be compensated for in tuition and fee increases. Because the cost of tuition increases, many more students are unable to afford the price tag, meaning that they must make ends meet through money from an outside party. Government has extended what seems to be a benevolent hand to those students who cannot afford college, offering grants and loans. However, these grants and loans actually contribute to the exponential rise in the price of college.

As colleges continue to hike their tuition and fees, the federal and state governments are continuing to give more financial aid. This does the opposite of bringing costs down-it actually encourages colleges to continue to increase their prices because they know that whatever price they set, the government will always be there to bridge the gap between what students can afford and what the real price is. If governments stopped subsidizing college education, prices would actually stop climbing and perhaps even drop. Government created the mess we find ourselves in now, and will only continue to worsen the situation if left to its own devices.

The best way to lower prices again is to remove all subsidies from secondary education markets and eliminate all barriers to competition. Once the impediments are taken away, colleges can compete among each other to offer the best combination of affordability and quality education to students, the consumers of the market.

Part of the problem today is that schools push all students to pursue higher education rather than pursuing high-paying trades. This creates a high demand, which also contributes to the hike in tuition prices. Rather than making secondary education seem like the next step along every student’s career path after high school, adults should emphasize the need for students to find a career that is appropriate for their talents and also brings them joy.

Take Los Angeles as a case study. UCLA and USC both have sticker prices over $65,000. Clearly, this isn’t affordable for most people. Though financial aid helps, it only does so much. On the other hand, the demand for trades is still present. The increased costs of education have led to fewer people pursuing them, though, which increases prices for the rest by decreasing competition. Want cheap plumbers in Los Angeles? Become one.

Only about 19% of undergraduate students graduate from their university within 4 years, a troubling sign. This statistic, coupled with the fact that the average student changes their major 3 times and 80% of students change their major at least once throughout their college career is a telltale sign that many students are pushed into going to college without any real idea about what they wish to study. And why should they? 18 year olds fresh out of high school should not be expected to know what they wish to spend their entire adult life doing.

Supporters of a free college for all system hope that this program would help equip students better so that they may be more competitive in the job market. The issue with a free, government subsidized higher education system is that it floods the market with workers of equal qualification. This greatly devalues the degree attained and makes the 4+ years spent studying to earn the degree almost a complete waste.

Due to the relatively modern push for all high school graduates to achieve degrees in higher education, there is a shortage of workers in the industries that require mere technical degrees and certifications. This shortage has caused the median salary of plumbers to be $50,181 per year, while the median yearly salary of an elementary school teacher is $44,195. The elementary school teacher spends at least 4 years in school, racking up debt and spending precious years out of the work force. On the other hand, plumbers can become certified and begin working after just a few years of technical school, accumulating little to no debt and joining the work force earlier. It is being proven more and more that the idea that one must attend college to become wealthy and successful is false.

The government’s intervention in the secondary education market has drastically increased the cost of tuition for every student, and its attempts to solve the issue are only worsening the issue. To truly solve this crisis, adults must stop pressuring all students to attend university and the government must end all subsidies and barriers to competition in the market.

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