Daily Discussion with BQB – Should College Tuition Be Free?

Happy Saturday 3.5 readers.

New York state recently became the first state in the nation to offer free tuition at all state schools.  You can even move to New York and get free tuition but the only catch is that you must remain in New York for five years after graduation.  If you leave before that, you have to pay the tuition back.

In other words, New York will give you free education, but the state government wants you to contribute to the state’s economy for five years.

It’s a good deal I wouldn’t have turned down at 18.  Hell, if you’re 18 and have yet to sell your parents on the move to New York dream, this might do it.  And five years after is fair.  At worst, you have to stay there five years.  If your dream job in another place comes your way in less than five years then hey, you’ll at least have your dream job that will allow you to pay the tuition back.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of free tuition, 3.5 readers.

PRO:  College has become ridiculously expensive.  Meanwhile, the economy has been flushed down the crapper.  While in the past, a college degree meant a guarantee of a good job, today’s graduates are competing in a world where everyone and their uncle has a degree and there are fewer jobs to go around.

In short, college has never been more expensive while a college degree has never been less relevant.  Experience is what matters and if students can skip that job at McDonald’s to pay for college, then they can volunteer and intern at places relative to their true passion.

CON:  Holy shit, the nation is 19 trillion dollars in debt already.  Are we just going to keep borrowing and borrowing like some dumbass who can’t say no to a pre-approved credit card until this massive Ponzi scheme we call the American economy goes belly up?

Sure, I sympathize with the plight of the college student.  However, don’t be convinced that the politicians and academic types got together to do a great, noble thing here.

A cynic, like myself, might note that higher education, has for years, been a Ponzi scheme of sorts.  For years and years, those in charge of academia said, “Hey, we need a statue of some guy that used to teach here.  Raise tuition!  We need a big water fountain, we need fancier buildings, a new sports stadium, more computers, more this, more that, Professor So and So needs to be paid to take off three years so he can write a ten thousand page article that no one will read about the mating habits of the East Indian fruit bat!  No problem!  We’ll just raise tuition!”

And so, academics just got into the bad habit of tacking the price of whatever they wanted onto the backs of the students they proclaim to love and care about.  And for a long time, that worked.  College degrees meant something.  Graduates got jobs.  They paid off their student loan debt.  The college gave students legitimacy, i.e. the right to say “I studied this field and now I deserve to work in it.”  And then when the students got jobs, they paid the debt on the loans they took out for the privilege.

That scheme doesn’t work anymore.  Now every waiting room for an open job is packed with like a hundred applicants, many with several more years worth of experience than the recent graduate.  When people with twenty years of experience are looking for work, how can a twenty year old compete?

Graduates aren’t finding those good jobs anymore.  Many aren’t finding any jobs.  And so, they end up on Mom and Dad’s basement couch, saddled with student loan debt, wondering when their dreams will come true.

Where’s my point?  My point is, the politicians who tanked the economy and the academics who never found something they didn’t want to charge off onto the backs of the students didn’t get together and say, “Hey, let’s fix this!  The politicians should make the economy better so graduates can find jobs and the academics should tighten their belts so that college is cheaper.”

Nope.  The politicians will still screw up the economy.  The academics will still build glorious water fountains in their honor and pay Professor So and So to go study the mating habits of the East Indian fruit bat for three years.  They just found a way to preserve the system.  Now, instead of charging it all off on the student, they’ll charge it all off to the government instead.

True, you’ll still be charged an arm and a leg if you go to a big name fancy school.  But the state colleges being free will at least mean there will always be a place where academics can generate all kinds of crazy expenses and they’ll still be paid for.

Meanwhile, state college students won’t have to pay for their degrees, which is fair, because no one is doing anything to fix the economy that renders so many college degrees useless these days.

Sorry.  I channelled Uncle Hardass.

Free tuition.  What say you, 3.5 readers?

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5 thoughts on “Daily Discussion with BQB – Should College Tuition Be Free?

  1. Dakota Kemp says:

    First off, there’s no such thing as “free” tuition. Nothing is free. If the government is getting charged for it, it’s taxpayers who are paying so that people can get “free” education. I’m definitely one of those people that think the person who should be paying for training/education are the people who are receiving said education and the benefit of such a commodity. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to get a job. But when, in the entire history of the world, has making a living been easy? Today’s world is quite possibly the best time to be alive, especially in America, where people BENEATH the poverty line are wealthier than 90% of the rest of the world’s population. If you want to improve yourself, pony up and do it. There are millions of dollars of unclaimed scholarships every year. There are part time jobs that will hire almost anyone. There are colleges with tuition prices much more modest than the big name school you always dreamed you’d attend. There are ways to trim back your lifestyle to save money for a personal education fund. As Mr. Mandela put it, you are responsible for your own fate. You’re also responsible for your own desirability to employers. I’m not, the government is not, and your parents are not. The “free” mentality we’ve managed to create is not the answer. Personal responsibility is.

    • Dakota Kemp says:

      Sorry if this got a bit ranty. Sometimes I don’t know how to say things any more tactfully than Uncle Hardass.

      • Oh I envy the millennials. In my day, Uncle Hardass chided my ideas of moving to a big city. Today, he’d be like, “You better get your ass to New York City because if you think I’m gonna pay for you to sit around and read books all day when a bunch of bleeding hearts in New York are giving it all away for free then you’ve got another thing coming.”

    • No, I agree. I just think people might be fooled into thinking the politicians and academics got together and did something nice here. They let college tuition get out of control for years and then when faced with a bad economy where less people can’t afford to pay their tuition back, they just found a way to stick the government with the bill instead, rather than fix any of the problems, i.e. making college cheaper or helping businesses create jobs.

      There are other issues I could go on about all day. There are a lot of useless subjects that students take only to end up finding its not going to make any money. I don’t want colleges to necessarily start dropping certain majors as colleges are supposed to be keepers of knowledge, but there needs to be more promotion of marketable skills.

      • Dakota Kemp says:

        Very true, especially the bit about marketable skills. But the majority of responsibility for that must fall on the students as well. After all, the student is the one choosing to go into music or drama or art, and, most of the time, they’re well aware that those skills provide little in the way of practical, marketable material for realistic job markets. And if they don’t understand that, then they are woefully naive.

        Now, I’m not one to knock the arts – after all, I, myself, am an author – but people who spend loads of money on an arts degree and then can’t find a job to pay back their loans get no sympathy from me. Sure, shoot for the stars, follow your dreams. But do so wisely. It’s not some great secret that there just aren’t a lot of well-paying jobs in the arts, and that’s been the case for thousands of years. Have a frickin’ backup plan or some practical way to live while you work toward your dream.

        I guess what I’m saying is: Go right ahead, New York. Provide free college education. But I certainly won’t be moving there. Ultimately, the citizen’s of New York are going to be who fund all that “free” education for people who may or may not appreciate or use such a gift responsibly. Personally, I feel that we, as humans, respect that which we earn much more than that which we’re given.

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