Friday, March 21, 2014

Is Free College Tuition A Good Idea?

Richard Eskow writes in the Huffington Post that "the time will come when we as a society will ask ourselves: How can we deny a higher education to any young person in this country just because she or he can't afford it?

Granted, I'm an advocate of public preschool, as an extension of the public K-12 school program. But that's because I have preschoolers, and I'm exhausted, and it would be like free educational childcare. So maybe I'm a hypocrite, and a freeloader.

Seriously though, how far are we going to run with this sense of entitlement?

Here's a fun game: replace "higher education" in Eskow's fervid opening sentence with "Corvette," "two-thousand square-foot home," and "annual international vacation," and listen to how stupid you sound.

   1. How can we deny a Corvette to any young person in this country just because she or he can't afford it?

   2. How can we deny a two-thousand square-foot home to any young person in this country just because she or he can't afford it?

   3. How can we deny an annual international vacation to any young person in this country just because she or he can't afford it?

Let's not even focus on the 49% tax on millionaires that the article suggests will cover the cost of higher education for all. Regardless of whether or not or how an initiative like this could be funded, is it actually necessary or integral to the benefit of society?

I am a proponent of government programs that actually contribute to the good of society. I like the idea of a national healthcare program (re: not a national health insurance program, i.e. Obamacare), because I know what it's like to work full-time hours and still not have access to medical care. Let's just be human here: basic healthcare should not be exclusive to those with the gold standard of salaried positions at large, for-profit companies.

But is higher education for all the golden ticket to opportunity? Advocates claim that if young people were provided free college tuition, it would translate to more income, more stability, and eventually, more tax revenue.

Look around at young people today. (Myself included.) Is a college degree really an indicator of future financial stability? For many young adults, steeped in college debt and under-employed, there could be strong arguments against the necessity of higher education.

For students who pursue college degrees, it undeniably extenuates the recent social phenomenon of delayed adolescence. In some ways, delayed adolescence indicates a healthier generation, seeking a better work-life balance, choosing to pursue interesting, unusual, or risky opportunities instead of the rat race of corporate America.

Up until now, these "emerging adults" have been protected (enabled?) by the security net of their parents. With free higher education, the government would become this safety net, ensuring the delayed adolescence of future generations (the same young people we're counting on to offset social security), generations marked by increased financial dependency and decreased social responsibility. (Biannual frat service projects noted.)

For those who say, "Amen! We need to completely privatize society and quit letting all the freeloaders live off our tax dollars," please recognize how ridiculous and hypocritical this sounds. If you feel that strongly about government programming, quit driving on our public roads, sending kids to our public schools, watching PBS, checking books out of our public libraries, and walking through our public parks.

Yes, there are government-funded initiatives well worth the public investment. Is higher education for all one of them? Not in my opinion.

Toga Parties should be an opportunity, nay a RIGHT, for every young American today!

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