The “free” college scam seems to be in bloom this election season once again. The last time I ever spoke of this was all the way back in 2015, however, despite all the evidence showing that this plan isn’t free nor practical, some politicians are willing to say anything in order to win your vote.
So what are the main points to take away the next time you hear someone discuss the glittery and amazing benefits of a tuition-free college education?
The Value of Your Degree Diminishes
Simple economics show that when the supply of something goes up, the price of it goes down. No item or service immutable to the laws of supply and demand. College degrees, which were once only available to the wealthy and affluent, has expanded into more affordable options over the years so more people have the opportunity to rise up the socio-economic ladder.
In 2017, a report was conducted stating the “the Census Bureau said 33.4 percent of Americans 25 or older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s a sharp rise from the 28 percent with a college degree a decade ago. When the Census Bureau first asked respondents about their education levels, in 1940, just 4.6 percent said they had a four-year degree.” With competition in the workplace as high as its ever been, this means it is less rare for most professionals to have a college degree, meaning its value is less.
In a Washington Post op-ed from 2018, author Ellen Shell discussed degree inflation stating “We appear to be approaching a time when, even for middle-class students, the economic benefit of a college degree will begin to dim. Since 2000, the growth in the wage gap between high school and college graduates has slowed to a halt; 25 percent of college graduates now earn no more than does the average high school graduate.” The root of the problem? An oversupply of individuals with college degrees.
If Americans who would not typically have the drive or desire to go to college end up completing their degree like so many other students, they might not be as marketable as they assumed they would be in a world where anyone can easily obtain a diploma because of the taxpayer covering the costs.
What Does This Mean for College Admissions?
If you are applying for school, I have news for you; college admissions do conduct a scan to see whether you can afford to attend their school or not. They want someone who won’t drop out from finances early in the game and someone whose family could potentially donate to the school longterm.
If tuition is an off the table discussion because now everything is free, why should we have any admission standards anymore? If all Americans have a right to a tuition-free education, doesn’ that also implies they have the right to obtain a degree from any university? Should GPA and activities even be part of the vetting process? Soon a degree from Harvard will be lesser than that of a degree from Radford, meaning that even the reputation of your attended school will begin to mean less.
Extremely Overqualified, Unqualified People
Some people shouldn’t attend college because college isn’t meant for everybody. Talents, interests, and other soft social factors play into this. Should a person who wants to become a hairdresser go to school? What about a plumber? Instead of paying for school, why not pay to start a business instead? There are more unemployed people with diplomas now than at any point in US history.
Tuition-free college is a hammer that treats all our social and economic issues like a nail, and while its premise might sound enticing, its results are less desirable.