colleges

Why 'Free College' Is a Terrible Idea

A bachelor's degree isn't a prerequisite to a satisfying career—it's a costly way of signaling the fortitude to withstand suffering.

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Michael Gamez, 22, has wanted to work on cars since he was a kid, just like his father and grandfather. He fixed up and sold his first used car when he was 14. "It felt really good to build something up and sell it for a profit," says Gamez.

But his teachers conditioned him to equate a college degree with success. So he enrolled at the University of California, Irvine, with a plan to major in mechanical engineering. During his sophomore year, Gamez dropped out because he realized that he was on the wrong path.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) have promised that, if elected, they'll make public college tuition-free and wipe clear federal student loan debt, which in the U.S. tops $1.5 trillion. Their claim is that making college universal will lead to higher productivity and more economic opportunity for people like Gamez.

"If you make college free, then there's going to be so many [degrees] floating around that if you want to get a better job, then you're going to need to go and get some supplemental degree," says Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University and author of The Case Against Education. He's skeptical that professors like him have much to offer most students.

"We're spending too much time and money on education because most of what you learn in school you will never use after the final exam," says Caplan. "If you just calmly compare what we're studying to what we really do, the connection is shockingly weak."

Caplan says that most people attend college as a way to signal to prospective employers that they're reasonably intelligent, conscientious, and conformist.

"The signaling story is mostly that our society says that you're supposed to graduate, and if you're supposed to graduate, the failure to graduate signals non-conformity," says Caplan. "People that are willing to just bite their tongues and suffer through it are the ones who are also going to be good at doing that once they get a job."

Caplan's case rests partly on the so-called sheepskin effect, named for the material on which diplomas were once printed.

Studies of the earnings of college graduates reveal that the average salary increase for completing the last year of college is on average more than double that of completing the first three, implying that it's the fortitude to obtain the degree—not the knowledge gained—that explains the boost in compensation.

"The usual view, called the human capital view, says that basically all of what's going on in schools, is that they are pouring useful skills into you," says Caplan. "What I'm saying is the main payoff you're getting from school is that you're getting certified, you're getting stamped. You are, in other words, getting what you need to convince employers that you are a good bet."

Instead of college, Leah Wilczewski, 21, enrolled in Praxis, a one-year job skills program focusing on communication, marketing, and other jobs. It cost $12,000 but included a 6-month paid apprenticeship worth $16,000, meaning she'll finish the program $4,000 in the black.

Wilczewski is in the middle of her apprenticeship at Impossible Foods, the Bay Area company that sells a meatless hamburger.

"I feel as if being in Praxis and being able to nail a job that typically requires four years of school, if not more…it's like, okay, with that knowledge, what else can I do?" says Wilczewski.

After Michael Gamez dropped out of UC Irvine, he enrolled in an auto mechanic trade school while also working at Pep Boys. Then he applied for and received a $12,400 scholarship from Mike Rowe Works, which helps young people looking to enter the skilled trades

From there, he entered a three-month training program with BMW and a day after finishing began his job as a high-level technician at BMW of Beverly Hills.

"Now that I work with cars…I get excited to go to work," says Gamez. "I feel like a lot of people, they get surprised when I tell them the amount of money that a mechanic or a technician can make at a dealership."

Even though it's possible to acquire the necessary skills to make a good living without attending college, enrollment at 4-year universities has stayed steady for the past 10 years, and an Economics of Education Review study by Nicholas Turner found that every dollar of federal aid spending crowds out about 83 cents of institutional aid. Such trends leave Caplan skeptical that enrollment will fall anytime soon despite the increasing availability of online alternatives.

"If you've got that kind of guaranteed customer base where the taxpayers have no choice in whether or not the money's going to be spent and the government hands it over to you, then you're going to be fine," says Caplan.

As for Wilczewski, she has two more months left in her apprenticeship and is hopeful that Impossible Foods will keep her on in the sales department. Gamez hopes that working for BMW is a first step towards eventually owning his own shop.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by John Osterhoudt, Alexis Garcia, Jim Epstein, Todd Krainin, and Weissmueller.

Photo credits: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/Newscom, Bastiaan Slabbers/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

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  1. The future is busywork, and college is a good training ground.

  2. I’m so fucking pumped for general election coverage when you clowns have to equate Trump to these pitiful socialists.

    He’s a buffoon in many ways and gives no fucks about the debt but compared to these clowns he’s Thomas fucking Sowell.

    And the LP will surely pump out some virtue signalling punk who folds on healthcare or some other free mumbo jumbo and you’ll still wonder why there’s a bunch of commentariat that love the orange lunatic

    1. I figure the LP will stay with the standard formula: some washed-up Republican on the grounds that he has “name recognition”.

      1. But hell be okay with weed and homos!

    2. > He’s a buffoon in many ways and gives no fucks about the debt but compared to these clowns he’s Thomas fucking Sowell

      In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king!

      I abhor Trump, but he’s still light years better than what we would have had under Clinton. And Clinton is sane compared to Bernie and Warren and Harris. Not defending Trump here, but the Democrats are in full retard mode, and you never go full retard. Hell, Jill Stein is sane compared to them, and she stuffs her mattress with Fruit Loops.

      1. That’s not her mattress…

    3. I would definitely like to see the LP put up an actual libertarian for once. But we need someone who can persuasively explain what it’s about, not just toss rhetorical bombs on twitter and shout about how taxation is theft from outside the debates we won’t be allowed to participate in. Thus far, the closest we’ve ever gotten to that was Ron Paul, and he wasn’t an actual libertarian. So, yeah.

      1. Id love for Ron Paul to be relevant again

      2. The ghost of Harry Browne would like a word with you.

  3. Pro tip: Only a woman wears her graduation cap that way. Not Hired.

  4. Their claim is that making college universal will lead to higher productivity and more economic opportunity for people like Gamez.

    “Some of the smartest people I know have graduate degrees. All of the dumbest people I know have graduate degrees.” — Iowahawk.

    1. Iowahawk is one of the smartest men to ever grace our continent.

    2. There’s nothing worse than dumb people with graduate degrees, because the dumber you are, the more apt you are to believe that the degree is what makes you smart.

      1. The smart ones stopped caring about degrees, grades, and assigned curriculum by the time they got to graduate school.

        What they learned was how to swim on their own.

    3. “Their claim is that making college universal will lead to higher productivity and more economic opportunity for people like Gamez.”

      That’s the claim.

      Their actual motivation is that making college universal will lead to higher productivity and more economic opportunity for people like themselves.

  5. Wilczewski is in the middle of her apprenticeship at Impossible Foods, the Bay Area company that sells a meatless hamburger.

    Impossible foods indeed.

    1. Also, Caplan’s signalling theory is correct. With universal free college, a free college degree will signal that you got a useless education. It will be the people who make their way through a truly private institution that will be signalling they have a worthwhile degree.

      1. It’s already the case that a Bachelor’s is roughly what a high school diploma was fifty years ago, and a high school diploma is nothing at all.

        The next conversation will be everyone’s right to a Master’s, since you can’t get a decent job without one.

        1. and a high school diploma is nothing at all.

          I resemble that remark.

          1. I should know, I don’t even have one!


        2. The next conversation will be everyone’s right to a Master’s, since you can’t get a decent job without one.

          Obviously, and it’s insane that no one seems to mention this. If almost everyone has a bachelors degree, people will look for someone with a masters. We’ve literally already seen this play out with bachelor degrees and high school diplomas, why do people think doing the same thing only harder will have different results?

          Of course, no one is talking about the fact there are limited slots at universities either. I guess we’ll need a bunch of shady fly-by-night operations to grift public funds out of idiot children going forward to meet demand…oh wait!

          Also, if it’s a ‘right’ all universities across the board will be removing any and all criteria to enter their school right? No more required GPA/SAT/ACT etc. requirements, right? Doesn’t matter if you’re dumb as a post, you deserve to be in Harvard! Also, doesn’t that mean if you don’t succeed in college that you’ll be unemployable for life, sort of like how it is today for your typical high school dropout?

          1. Doesn’t matter if you’re dumb as a post, you deserve a degree from Harvard!

            Otherwise it’s not fair.

          2. You already see this in early childhood education. Why? So many people (women) want to work with kids, they is a market glut, so they require a masters. For jobs that pay just above minimum wage. Do you need a masters to show kids how to finger paint and make macaroni art? Only when everyone else already has a bachelors.

  6. Places with guaranteed free college are also places where the state plans out everyone’s lives from cradle to grave. They are also places where not everyone gets to go to college.

    Example: Germany. While not outright socialist, one’s life has a lot of government planning behind it. If you go to college depends on choices the state makes during your high school years. And it’s not always about your grades. It’s one reason pay-for US universities are so popular, if the state won’t let you attend native German university, head on over to the US and pay for your own education.

    In the US we have the bizarre idea that everyone gets to go to college. So if college is free we end up just dumbing it down so everyone can succeed. We’ll soon go bankrupt trying to produce college grads who can’t read. Which is why universal college attendance is NOT a thing. Because when the state knows it can’t provide universal college degrees so it doesn’t even try. So what might vaguely work in Europe if you squint really hard, would end up utterly destroying the US college system.

    1. I think a better example would be Japan. Over there, you take a test in what’s more or less 9th grade, to test into a high school. If you do well, you go into a college prep style high school, to be tested again at the end to determine if you get to go to one of the good Imperial universities or a crummy state school. If you don’t do well on the high school entry exam, you’re taken out of the college track altogether and sent to a regular high school. If you do badly enough you go to a remedial high school that awards a lesser diploma.

      So, in literal fact, if you do badly on a test as a young teen it fucks the rest of your life. Kids commit suicide rather than take this test. It’s the only way to handle a fully socialized education system, though. But if your parents have the cash, you can go to an American college instead.

  7. If you want to make college less relevant to the hiring process, you’ll need to get the SC to overrule Griggs vs. Duke Power and get the relevant portions of the 1991 Civil Rights Act repealed.

  8. “Why ‘Free College’ Is a Terrible Idea”

    Yep, it’s worth every penny.

  9. Better still, if we are going to continue to pretend the federal government has any business in education at all, let’s just outlaw requiring a degree to applying for a job.
    Set concrete measurable skills related to the job, and allow the companies to test for those specific skills whether acquired in college, on the web, or by osmosis.
    Oh, wait. Then the damn fools in HR with useless degrees from useless colleges will have to have actual skills and make real decisions that can be judged a performance time! OH, the horror!

    1. Only a limited number of skills are measurable in a way that works for this idea. A lot of skills, particularly in more professional work, are subjective.

      In short, that might work for some fields but not others, including most STEM fields.

      1. If criteria for a job are so highly subjective and untestable in the skills arena, than it means the job itself is highly subjective and probably not worth spending a lot of money on hiring people to do that job.

        Having lots of extraneous positions and duplicated work is usually the realm of your typical non-profit, rather than your typical for-profit endeavor. It exists in both, but it’s a big difference in scale.

        STEM is actually one of those area’s where it is highly testable. The degree itself is also an actual credential that represents concrete knowledge. It wins on both counts.

        What doesn’t win are things like ‘journalism’ or ‘painting’ or ‘teaching’ or ‘speaking’. Those entire fields are subjective, hence the subjectivity problem.

        1. For most engineering fields, you can test knowledge. Do you know what this or that iterator is, explain various sorting algorithms, how do you determine the proper voltage for this arrangement of components, etc.

          What you can’t do is measure skill. Goodness knows, Google tried. Their brain teasers and code problems are infamous for being entirely unhelpful to finding the right candidate.

          And other fields aren’t better. The electrical engineers I’ve worked with? All had the same core knowledge. What differed between them, their skills? Weren’t things you could “test” for in a day, or even a week.

          There’s a reason I harp on how intelligence and knowledge aren’t the same thing.

          And merit tests? Can’t test the former.

          To be clear, I’m not really arguing in favor of current hiring practices. Getting the right engineer is a bitch of a time, and is a huge crap shoot. But any occupation that relies on complicated skills (ie, most high-paying jobs) will be beyond what “merit tests” can reliably do.

          1. I agree intelligence and knowledge aren’t the same thing, but both are well documented in how to test for them. That companies don’t require I.Q. tests for employment could be said to be the problem in your scenario?

            I wouldn’t agree with that since I.Q. tests, in my view, are themselves questionable but if you’re looking for high intelligence high knowledge people it could be a predictor for future performance. I’m also not trying to say you’d agree with that, merely that it’s theoretically something a company could do if they’re searching for superior candidates. (Google seems to do just that, in fact.)

            Notably, police departments seem able to weed out most intellectual superiors so I’d assume the private sector could accomplish the reverse.

            1. “My scenario?” Dude, you lost the plot. I was pointing out problem’s with Longtobefree’s suggestion.

              And police departments get away with it because police academies. Somehow I don’t imagine capitalism is going to give up credentialism in favor of apprenticeships for every job.

  10. “If you make college free, then there’s going to be so many [degrees] floating around that if you want to get a better job, then you’re going to need to go and get some supplemental degree,” says Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University and author of The Case Against Education.

    The college I went to didn’t refuse anyone. The only barrier to admissions was the ability to pay. And it was a state school, so tuition was cheap, it was in a small town, so rent was cheap, and the state had a lottery scholarship so even those barriers quickly disappeared.

    In short, it was really easy to get in for anyone that wanted it.

    And we had an absolutely awful retention rate, because our school had standards. Simply put, about half our Freshmen bailed for an easier school because their choice was excel at another university, or hover just-above academic probation at ours.

    So no. You don’t have to use high tuition as a gatekeeper. You can just have academic standards.

    1. And yet, you note that students were able to leave for an organization with lesser academic standards and receive the same credential for less effort and potentially even lesser cost right now today.

      When everyone has an undergraduate degree, you make it harder for organizations to ascertain employee value not easier. This is one of the many reasons why you’d rationally expect more organizations to require a masters if everyone has a bachelors. That puts us in the same position we are now only for several trillion dollars more, and probably a lesser standard of recent college graduate (not that it has far to fall).

      In essence, they’re turning the valve the wrong way. We need fewer gender studies graduates and more trade school graduates. Proponents of free college think it’s the other way around.

      1. When everyone has an undergraduate degree […]

        Is a premise that y’all haven’t sufficiently proven is a mandatory consequence of free tuition.

        I mean, we’ve alreayd tested this. Public high schools, free tuition, right? We still have folks that drop out, skip out, flunk out. We also have folks that pay extra for private schools with expensive tuition.

        Heck, how about free college tuition? Quite a few states have programs that pay the full tuition costs for residents at state colleges. We still have a lot of folks that don’t go to college, or start attending but flunk out, and so-on.

        Tuition is a barrier to some people. Removing that barrier won’t mean that everyone tries to go to college, or that colleges start accepting everyone regardless of merit, or that colleges stop flunking people.

        1. If you don’t expect graduation rates to go up precipitously, then what exactly is the point?

          We’ve already seen this occur with government student loan programs, so you’d think it would be rational to expect more of it once people have no skin in the game when going to college.

          You even explicitly point out your school didn’t deny anyone, and yet lots of people flunked out. How is making that cost-free to those who attempt it NOT going to flood the gates of every education institution, and why would education institutions NOT soak up that money with extraneous useless degree plans?


          Quite a few states have programs that pay the full tuition costs for residents at state colleges.

          Which ones, and what programs? I’m aware of a few, and I’m also aware that at least a few of them have some pretty big strings attached if you avail yourself of those programs. Such as not leaving the state to work for a period of time in the case of New York. And, as far as any program I’ve seen, they also reject people precisely because of finite public funding.

          1. Caveat: I don’t actually think free-tuition is the best answer, I just think these arguments against it are sophistic. That said…

            If you don’t expect graduation rates to go up precipitously, then what exactly is the point?

            (A) to make merit the basis for enrollment, rather then money
            (B) to not put a millstone around graduates (and flunk-outs) necks

            How is making that cost-free to those who attempt it NOT going to flood the gates of every education institution[…]

            Again, free tuition does not mean guaranteed acceptance. That said, free tuition does not mean cost-free. There are still opportunity costs. Room and board, relocation, etc. and so-on.

            […] and why would education institutions NOT soak up that money with extraneous useless degree plans?

            Physical limitations come to mind. Only so much facilities to go around for in-person students.

            Beyond that, you’re assuming a specific version of “free tuition” that has no checks on abuse from schools.

            Third, what’s stopping them now?

            Which ones, and what programs?

            I’m most familiar with the New Mexico State Lottery Scholarship, which was that any student who graduated from high school in the state of New Mexico, and maintained a C average in college, got four years of tuition at a state university.

            That said, you seem to be jumping to a specific disfavored form of “free tuition” again, in which there are no limits or regulations and it’s an endless spigot. As far as “free tuition” plans go, that’s pretty far on the “unrealistic” side.


            1. (A) to make merit the basis for enrollment, rather then money
              (B) to not put a millstone around graduates (and flunk-outs) necks

              To point A, that’s already the basis right now today. So, status quo is the revolution? Unless you’re saying it’s common to simply buy a place in a school, which would be news to me even if it does happen. (And, notably, would still happen in any conceivable system.)

              To point B, not putting ‘millstones’ around flunk-outs necks is essentially removing any market signals from functioning. Any individual would be insane not to take the ‘free tuition’. Again, we’ve already seen this play out with student loans and public schools and it hasn’t ended well. In fact, it’s ‘ending’ with a doubling down on what has already failed. Ballooning costs and reduction in outcomes didn’t happen in a vacuum of free market principles.

              To both points, going to ‘free tuition’ moves the entry requirement to available public funding instead of individual funding, it in no way moves to a more ‘merit based’ entry requirement (that, again, already exists). It also means you’re vastly expanding access without expanding supply, meaning even if you DO meet any arbitrary merit considerations you might not get in based on availability of seats, further undercutting your merit based entry argument.


              That said, you seem to be jumping to a specific disfavored form of “free tuition” again, in which there are no limits or regulations and it’s an endless spigot. As far as “free tuition” plans go, that’s pretty far on the “unrealistic” side.

              So it’s my fault that the people offering free pony’s don’t specify the terms of conditions for receiving a free pony? Might they not get into those specifics precisely because they are proposing old and stale policy that already exists with the same thing, only more of it? Or because if people knew what they actually propose, they would not be ‘for’ it at all?

              I just think these arguments against it are sophistic.

              Might want to look in a mirror.

            2. you seem to be jumping to a specific disfavored form of “free tuition” again, in which there are no limits or regulations and it’s an endless spigot. As far as “free tuition” plans go, that’s pretty far on the “unrealistic” side.

              Because we all know that’s how it would work.

              You’re side-stepping the fact that we’ve already done “tuition-free” college education in California. We already know how this works in an American idiom.

              Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

              As Exhibit No. 1 against your “space constraints” argument, I present the construction of eight new UC campuses over the course of the 1960s, when the “tuition-free” program was implemented.

              The State of California in recent years found that the cost of “tuition free” college education is too much of a burden on the general fund, and now roughly as much funding comes from the state as comes from student “fees,” which now rival Ivy League tuitions.

              Sophistry, indeed.

              1. Sorry – seven new campuses. I was forgetting that the tenth is UC Merced, which was only recently completed.

  11. Spoiler: Prof. Bryan Caplan’s children will attend college. Just like their father (Princeton, Berkeley).

    And (if they have good credentials) strong liberal-libertarian colleges or universities, not fourth-tier, conservative-controlled schools. Just like their father.

    Prof. Caplan favors avoiding a strong education — for other people.

    1. “Prof. Caplan favors avoiding a strong education — for other people.”

      So on top of being a bigoted asshole, you can’t read.

      1. How dare you talk to your “better” like that! He might not “permit” it, and then you’ll really be in trouble!

        Haha.

    2. “Spoiler: Prof. Bryan Caplan’s children will attend college.”

      Well certainly. Caplan says that College is at least 50% signalling. Signals are valuable. Apparently you don’t really understand what Caplan is actually saying.

      1. Yeah – a math educator named Phil Daro recently spoke at my daughter’s school, and it was pretty interesting.

        He pointed out that on one hand, kids who take calculus in high school almost invariably wind up re-taking it in college. There is little measurable advantage to accelerating children’s math studies – they pretty much all wind up at the same place anyway.

        On the other hand, he also had the intelligence and foresight to point out that this doesn’t change the fact that admissions staff look for things like having taken calculus in high school.

  12. I find the premise of this op-ed ridiculous. The only thing college should be about is getting a basic education (undergraduate) and then relevant skills and knowledge (graduate). It is not about proving you can succeed and it absolutely should not be about proving you are so bad at math that you will go into steep debt to prove to people you’ve never met that you have an intangible level of “grit” or “fortitude” or whatever this author thinks it proves. Anything beyond “theoretically well rounded” or “relevant advanced knowledge” is an utter waste of time and outside the scope of what a college degree is supposed to provide – or prove. Should it be free? No. I agree with that part. But the reasoning and argument for why not? Not even close.

    1. I thought the first 13 years were for getting a basic education?

  13. I appreciate Zach’s showing us getting a degree is “signaling the fortitude to withstand suffering”. But he missed the libertarian foundational points for why “free college is a terrible idea”. First of all, who’s going to be harmed to pay for it, and does it benefit society? Obviously taxpayers will pay for it, and no, it harms society more than helps.

    Liberals and statists will argue a public education benefits society, while libertarians should argue people shouldn’t be forced to subsidize parents, especially when they can’t or don’t have kids, or that government schools should even exist. Free markets deliver better goods and services at lower prices than government, because of market forces that don’t exist when government controls the market.

    Here are a few thoughts Eric didn’t mention.
    1. Should government provide education funding so students can continue taking classes until they pass? As a government teacher, I’d just get a bunch of my friends to sign up for my class, then not show up so I get paid.
    2. Does government become the arbiter of who may attend what classes, or will everyone get to attend the classes they want?
    3. Does government become the authority as to what is a passing grade, and whether a degree is accredited or not?
    4. If classes are free, what’s to stop people from disrupting them?
    5. I can learn to make LSD and speed right?
    6. I can get a free education on how to fly a 747 right?
    7. I can get a free education on how to build explosives right?
    8. Who decides who gets to teach what, and how much are they paid (or are they forced to work for free since the education is free)?

    There’s lots of unintended consequences and market issues here, totally unexplored to answer the article’s question.

    1. … I’m sorry, are you seriously alarmed at the idea that anyone that wants can take chemistry courses?

      I mean heck, if you don’t want the degree, you just want to know how to make nitroglycerin and speed, just look up when some big university has it’s Chem 121 and Chem 122 lectures going, and show-up.

      That said, changing how a school handles tuition doesn’t necessarily mean they change how they choose what they teach. So flight instruction probably won’t be covered, though any robust proposal should include support for tradeskills as well (which might include flight instruction).


      1. That said, changing how a school handles tuition doesn’t necessarily mean they change how they choose what they teach.

        And yet, we have decades worth of evidence that it does. If you expand access, you aren’t necessarily expanding access to things like mechanic engineering. Those programs have standards and have people’s lives riding on them, and there are very limited spots.

        Schools are more than happy to offer ‘H.R.’ or ‘Arts’ degrees to anyone that shows up, though, to meet that demand. It’s free money to them, after all.

        1. I’m sorry, did you just try to argue against “free tuition” by pointing out that debt-paid tuition (the current model) supports what you see as a proliferation of useless degrees?

          Even if you’re right, that’s not an argument against “free tuition”, that’s an argument against the status quo.

          1. I’m still arguing against it. That you don’t see it seems to indicate some pretty thick blinders or a lack of rational thinking.

            Is it surprising to you that one can be against the status quo as well as a much-worse doubling down on the same policies that led to the status quo? I’d think you’d need to be against both since selectivity in this area would be doublethink.

          2. I’m sorry, did you just try to argue against “free tuition” by pointing out that debt-paid tuition (the current model) supports what you see as a proliferation of useless degrees?

            Yes, he did. Because if that’s a problem, “free tuition” will make that problem worse. Hence his analogy of turning the faucet the wrong way.

  14. Truthfully, there is a pretty wide gap in lifetime earnings between those who have a 4-year degree and those who do not. That equates to a pretty huge difference in SSA lifetime benefits as well. So yes, there is a large disparity.

    I don’t think the answer is to dumb down college for everyone. We can already see how dumbing down the curriculum in public schools is working out: abysmally.

  15. “Free college tuition” = The taxpayers pay for someone else’s education.
    Even Helen Keller could see through this bullshit.

  16. Seems to me that some logic is missing in the assertions made in the article. The idea that free college will create a flood of degrees that will lower the market value of any one degree, I don’t know if that’s true. I think of a parallel in health care, doctors aren’t clamboring for Medicare and Medicaid business, because the reimbursement rates from these programs are lower than what they get from private insurance. Make college free (ie, government paying for it), and there will be less incentive for colleges to build new facilities and hire new staff to serve more students, not more, so you’ll just have more students competing for the same number of spots at colleges. That means college admissions will get more competitive. As for potential cut-rate colleges starting up to take in the kids that don’t get accepted at the traditional colleges, that’s not going to make the value of a degree from a traditional college less valuable – does anyone now consider a degree from University of Phoenix as valuable as one from Dartmouth? Of course not.


    1. Make college free (ie, government paying for it), and there will be less incentive for colleges to build new facilities and hire new staff to serve more students, not more.

      How do you figure? How many dollars do you think a classroom of 500 people every hour or two is worth? I’d say quite a lot, and it seems public schools agree on that point. Especially when there’s no real requirement for the person you pay to teach the class to have a Ph.D.

      What’s the salary of a grad student again? And how much does a ‘temporary classroom building’ cost?

      I’m also not entirely sure why anyone would think it’s a great idea to have the government as involved in college curriculum tomorrow as much as they’re involved in high school curriculum today, but that is the implication inherent in federal funding.

      I guess the marketplace of idea’s is closed after all.

      1. What’s the salary of a grad student again?

        Maybe $20k/year, if they work full time.

        And how much does a ‘temporary classroom building’ cost?

        In CA right now, roughly $4-500/sf. That’s your real expense right there, but government never hesitates to spend where there’s union jobs to be had.

      2. I’m also not entirely sure why anyone would think it’s a great idea to have the government as involved in college curriculum tomorrow as much as they’re involved in high school curriculum today […]

        The federal government doesn’t set standards for high schools, that’s a state matter.

        The federal government is involved in university accreditation.

        You have this entirely backwards.

        1. A fair point, I should have differentiated the levels of government I suppose. Since I’m against both generally speaking, I tend to lump them together when I shouldn’t.

          The Federal government also has various and sundry ways to influence local schools via funding and initiatives, as well, but I suppose if you ignore that and focus purely on the law it looks better.

    2. Make college free (ie, government paying for it), and there will be less incentive for colleges to build new facilities and hire new staff to serve more students

      Au contraire, making college “free” (i.e. government paying for it) increases the incentive to apply to the government for grant money for new facilities to handle the influx of new students.

  17. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” If the government can offer you “free college tuition” they can also limit what you can study and how you will return the taxpayer’s investment in your degree. And, if you drop out, they could always demand full repayment of their wasted investment.

    1. 3rd party purchases are usually ongoing “wasted investments”. Its not their money and not their product. Do you honestly think they care as much as you?

  18. “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) have promised that, if elected”

    Holy crap those two people must be LOADED!!! They claim they are going to PAY for everyone’s college and loans and it’ll be “Free” for “everyone else”…

    What’s that about – $13T in their saving account for the first year.
    The real question is why do they have to be elected first (bribery); why can’t they just volunteer to pay for everyone’s education…

    Such attempts at “buying the vote” really should be illegal shouldn’t they?

  19. “Free” anything is a bad idea, especially when it results from money taken by force from taxpayers. People who earn their way also earn self-esteem along the way. There is no alternative path.

  20. I think one of the things that bothers me the most about this is that I already paid my way through a bachelors degree, and it seems people like me are being told to go fuck ourselves with this kind of thing.

    Does the government plan on funding the millions of people that received a bachelors to go on to grad school in order to maintain their competitive edge? Will we get refunds of tuition paid to fund our own graduate education? If education is a ‘right’, why then are we limiting it to undergraduates and a four year degree? Why isn’t it also a ‘right’ to have your Ph.D. paid for on the public dime? If public schools are a good thing, it would be foolish to limit it would it not?

    It seems to me that liars abound who want to purchase votes via debt forgiveness while giving the finger to anyone and everyone that managed before. They don’t have any real answers, just superficial emoting that clearly has the potential to be a way bigger wreck than the jalopy we’re already driving.

    If your ‘solutions’ to a problem are a doubling down on what’s already been shown to fail, why does anyone credit them with any originality or forward thinking? They’re just the exact same moron Progressives that drove us into the ditch, and we’re putting them back behind the wheel because they put on a fake mustache.

  21. “Free college” is simply free money for the seminaries of the postmodern Marxist theocracy.

    1. freeshit is the opium of the marxist

  22. So is this whine about how “free college” doesn’t include trade schools? If that’s the case, then I agree they should also be free.

    Everyone should be able to learn any skills or whatever they want, for free. The reason is that the fuckers running things require you to be “certified” for just about everything – so why should I have to pay for it?

    1. Except; You already PAID them to pester you into getting “certified” and you’ll pay them again to meet those standards. And you’ll be paying them even more as soon as your “certified”.

      As-if you even had a choice (short of jail time) in the matter.
      The only people who choose whether or not to pay Taxes are welfare leaching coach potatoes.

  23. This article looks at the issue from the students’ perspective but doesn’t touch on the parents’ perspective.

    The reason “free college” is a bad idea for the parent is that to provide “free college” the government will have to raise taxes on everyone. That’s a bad deal for a parent because the student may get their four year degree (in 4 years) but they’ll be paying higher taxes for the rest of their life. Ditto the student.

  24. A number of years ago I was working on a graduate degree and my adviser commented to me that the degree was not so much learning as it was a “union card”. In the old days you joined the union got the card when to the office and they gave you a job. Today the degree often substitutes for the card.

    Another way to look at this is also from the employer’s point of view. Say your on a interview panel for a new hire and one candidate looks good but doesn’t have the degree. Are you going to go out on a limb and hire the candidate with no degree. If he works great, but if he fails you overlooked a big noticeable flaw. Is it worth the risk?

    1. ABSOLUTELY — If it wasn’t for all the “fad” group-think going around then everyone would notice that the Ph.D.’s are as dumb as rocks, lazy and act like they know everything, Masters can be okay, Bachelors are pretty useful, and Associates just get stuff done.

      Any under-qualified degree with a work history in a job usually insisting on a higher degree IS/ARE the smartest ones in the field. How else do you think they earned their way past the idiocy group-thinking of society (Bunch of dumb Ph.D. rocks had to get slapped in the face by the brilliance of Einstein).

      1. Haven’t you seen the curriculum’s.
        Ph.D.’s
        – 60% Liberal Arts
        – 20% How to “pretend”(keyword) like student knows everything
        – 20% How to belittle everyone to ensure no one finds out how stupid student really is on the subject.
        – 0% How to actually do the job at hand.

        Associates (Especially Vo-Tech)
        – 60% Liberal Arts
        – 20% Desire to actually accomplish something
        – 20% How to actually do the job at hand

  25. Damn right ! But, during The Vietnam war staying in school was good. With a BA in fine art /minor in business I could become an officer in the USAF and fly. After that Used GI bill & went to grad school for an MS in communications and ultimately was fired from 5-6 corporate jobs. Finally became a carpenter and retired early. College & grad school did give me skills to run my own business and make decent investments.

  26. “”If you make college free, then there’s going to be so many [degrees] floating around …”

    This exemplifies why wealth dependent on exclusivity.

    If some large fraction of the population had some good or trait, then it would be worth less for all of those who possess that same good or trait.

    Or to put it differently, if everyone was making at least seven figures annually, how much would it cost to have your septic tank cleaned out?

    This is why high degrees of wealth only work if it is limited to an exclusive group. Wealth is dependent on having enough people living hand-to-mouth and just enough other people doing somewhat better than that in order to drive sufficient consumption and demand. Otherwise, a high degree of wealth wouldn’t buy very much.

  27. Nothing is truly free – Sanders and Warren know that, as does anyone else with a working brain. The problem is that colleges have been allowed to charge whatever amount they want for college, with no onus to prove that the education is worth the cost. A cap needs to be set on how much a state school can charge for a semester of college – that is the only way to make it affordable for those who want a college education.

    1. College wasn’t expensive until it was politicized as a “human right”. It’s like all the cost went up 100x the very day the Pell Grant and Federal Aid was implemented.

      I guess giving just anyone and everyone a GOV credit-card to carelessly spend away wasn’t such a good idea after all.

      It worked pretty well at turning the USD into funny money though.

  28. I’ve got three degrees that are more worthless than people without. I wonder though if free college will equate to too many degrees floating around. I feel like if college is rigorous enough, free or not, people still have to work their tails off to earn a degree. Those who don’t want to work will drop or flunk out.

    1. In VERY VERY many industries – that’s all the socialist education degree means anymore to employers.

      “Will he/she benefit the company?” …… “Well, all we really know is he/she can handle years of obedient torture without quiting. That’s a plus. If they’re a Ph.D. the world instinctively owes them a desk and dictator powers for the torture. Any other level may have extremely fundamental education on the subject.”

      Thus is why past experience is worth 90% more to an employer than a socialist educational degree. What does it tell us when 8-years of pure study cannot teach a person what 1-year of live experience can???!??!?!?!

      Perhaps that the Industrial market is 8x more equipped at educating than GOV socialism?

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