February 8th, 2012
07:30 AM ET

My View: Why not a right to a college education?

Courtesy Lester Spence By Lester Spence, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Lester K. Spence is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. His first book Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics was published in June 2011, and was one of the first books to empirically examine the political effect of hip-hop on black communities.

While in my office, preparing for the new semester, I had the opportunity to watch the president’s speech on college affordability delivered at the University of Michigan. I was interested in the speech in part because I am a political scientist, in part because I am a college professor, and in part because I am an alumnus of the University of Michigan.

But most importantly I was interested in the speech because my oldest daughter will be leaving for college in just seven short months. And although being a Johns Hopkins college professor has its benefits (Hopkins gives a generous tuition benefit applicable to any college in the nation) I still worry about my daughter and her four younger brothers and sisters. In his speech President Obama focused on three components designed to ease the burden of middle-class families—reducing interest on college student loans, maintaining the tuition tax credit, and creating incentives to make universities lower their costs.

Now I understand for some politics is the art of the possible. He proposes these things knowing that as hard as it will be to pass them legislatively, these things are at least possible to get past both houses of Congress. (It isn’t likely, particularly during an election year, but it’s possible.)

But for me, politics isn’t just about the art of the possible—about what we can pass in the here and now. Politics is about expanding and extending that art, about pushing the borders to create space for even more change in the future.

How can we do that here?

What if, instead of proposing policies geared towards individual middle-class tax-payers that revolved around the assumption that higher education was an individual’s responsibility, the president instead proposed policies geared towards embedding higher education as an individual right. What if, instead of getting a tax write-off after you’ve already paid your son/daughter’s tuition, you instead didn’t have to worry about education because the government would pay for it?

It’s socialism!

It’s too expensive!

I want to take the socialism critique first. The reality is that even here we routinely spend a significant amount of our government’s resources on subsidies, on what tea party supporters might call “socialist policies.” For instance, in 2009 the government spent almost $86 billion on home ownership subsidies in the form of the mortgage interest deduction, subsidizing the home purchases of almost 35 million citizens. In 2010 the government spent almost $104 billion.

Furthermore, as the president noted in the State of the Union address, the federal government routinely spends billions of dollars in corporate subsidies, helping them research and develop new products, helping them build new plants, helping them train new workers. If we wouldn’t think of these policies as socialist, why should we necessarily consider a policy to pay for college tuition socialist?

The second critique is a bit more thoughtful. If tuition and fees are too expensive for parents, wouldn’t placing this burden on the government be exorbitantly expensive, too expensive to even consider?

As of 2004 it would have cost approximately $30 billion to pay for the tuition and fees of everyone currently attending a public college, whether that college be four-year like the University of Michigan, or two-year, like neighboring Washtenaw Community College. Even if we double that figure now due to inflation, we’re still talking about spending less money on college tuition for every student able to get into college, than we routinely do to subsidize home purchases.

Such a policy for me is a no-brainer. It significantly reduces the financial burden on parents and on students. No longer would a father and mother have to consider taking a second mortgage on their home or perhaps a second job to put their child through school. No longer would three college roommates have to have eight jobs between them (as my roommates and myself did in 1990). President Obama didn’t mention working class or poor parents at all - no longer would college be out of reach for much of the 99%.

This policy is politically impossible in the current climate.

But then again, so was Social Security at one point. So was the GI Bill.

So was the Civil Rights Act.

If we can’t even talk about such a policy as a possibility aloud now, then when?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lester Spence.

Posted by
Filed under: After High School • College • Policy • Voices
soundoff (928 Responses)
  1. Jacque

    Casey in Michigan – we need more people like you in the US!

    February 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  2. Joe R

    Couple of comments: The government didn't lose $86 billion on the mortgage deductions, just the taxes on that amount. Still sizeable but significantly less. But I do agree there needs to be more ways to access "Free" higher education. If the government were to pay for a college education, why wouldn't the student owe the government something? Like a requirement to work a few years in a government job as repayment. This would also give graduates some of the needed experience to help them be more attractive to the private sector. Point is if you want something from someone (or government) you should be willing to pay back – maybe not dollar for dollar, but 2 years government service for a $100K+ education seems quite fair. And no burden on the parents. By the way, the government already pays the education costs of thousands of military personnel. Only they have to put in the time up front to earn the benefits while putting their lives at risk. No one should get a handout, but government doesn't know how to put together comprhensive government programs that help pay for themselves.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  3. chena

    ....sorry Les.....but, you are a SOCIALIST.....where does the money for all these free college educations come from....?...from the taxes that other people have paid.....how 'bout this....you want a free college education...?....sign up for a 10-year hitch in the US Military...you get reduced-rate classes while you are in, and when you have completed your 10 year hitch, you get to complete a 4 college degree, and you agree to pay 35% taxes on your earnings for the rest of your life....

    February 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • af090391

      Well, when your reading an article from a guy who takes pride in relating Hip Hop to politics, what do you expect?

      February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  4. urmomlol

    Please, confiscate even more taxes from me so we can subsidize more enormously useful "Africana Studies" degrees.

    Remember when you actually had to study a serious academic field in order to get a PhD, let alone a professorship?

    February 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  5. Sei

    IIf you're not going to be able to afford to send your kids to school stop having kids. Don't make me pay for your lack of understanding of basic contraception. Secondly, not everyone can go to college. All that will do is destroy the value of education and take away the already scant options for people who, for whatever reason, still could not complete a degree. If 90% of the people receive bachelor's degrees then eventually employers will require a BA to check out you groceries.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  6. S-man

    As a few have suggested, more trade-schools, or more empasis of them, would go a long way in 'solving' the problem of every parent thinking their kid has a 'right' to go to college. For many that I know, college was a partial or complete waste of time and resourses. You can do good work and make good money a lot quicker by learning a trade.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Dead Man Blogging

    So, now we're going to turn our colleges into government agencies? Isn't tenure enough? Don't we have enough Assistant Deans and Associate Deans and Assistants to the Associate Dean, all making 6-figure salaries, already? We will end up with an even more bloated bureaucracy if we take away any reason for schools to limit the cost of education.

    As the author of this piece demonstrates, a college education is no guarantee of intelligence.

    Other than academics, what do you do with a degree in African Studies, anyway?

    February 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • af090391

      For the love of god, no. First, college tuition cost have gone up tremendously BECAUSE the government gives every student a right to Stafford loans, and their parents easy access to PLUS loans. AKA, a college can assuredly get itself 8 thousand dollars a year per student just on Stafford loans, and have an easy bet on PLUS loans.

      Second, the whole reason you high school diploma is worthless now days is because everyone is going to college, even those who are trying to get jobs in sectors that don't even require a college education! Why? Because it gives them an edge. If you try to give everyone that edge, than its no longer an edge, and next up, you will have to be getting PHD's in order to find a job. There are only a few majors that actually require a college education, we shouldn't start subsidizing people who aren't going to take those.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • af090391

      Post wasnt supposed to be in reply to this.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Dan

      @ Mr. Spence. So, gov't should now tell me and possibly my future children to go get an education etc etc. How about this Mr. Spence. Why not re-read the Declaration of independence the last sentence. The right of Life,Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without any gov't or republic dictating this. Obama has failed this country, embarrassed us on the nat'l and internat'l stage. We have emboldened enemies that were, and now not afraid of the USA. We have political fat cats that haven't the slightest clue how to get us out of this huge crisis. Not to mention the most corrupt gov't since Nixon and Carter. This country also made history in its gov't spending close to 4 trillion dollars the most spending done if you combine Reagan, Father Bush and Son, and Clinton administrations. Yes, that is a fact. GOV'T WILL NOT EVER TELL ME WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN WHY HOW i should handle my affairs.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  8. K Bryant

    I am all for a Government assisted College. However I do believe things need to be looked at in this information age and use the tools before us.
    The Government should create a (CBT) Computer Based Training program college level courses. Teach them for free via the web and allow all to attend and test via the web. Public schools/Libraries can be used to have night classes that broadcast the courses for people that lack the ability to afford the tools at home.
    The testing should be administered like certification testing. If a person passes all the courses they get a College level Diploma. I also believe a person needs to pay a fee like $50 per class final to show that they are serious and not just trying till they pass.
    This system needs to be equal to any and be fully accredited to carry worth. This is all similar to CLEP programs already in place except this includes instruction and books are supplied via the electronic format.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • B Smith

      Another case for DUMBING DOWN America. First they suggest paying kids to go to high school, most do not complete, now free college. What happened to the idea of working for something to get ahead?

      February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  9. Moderate21

    Subsidies are not the way to go! Governments, even when they are well-intentioned, are incapable of funneling their money appropriately. States and municipalities will always take advantage and the money will always go into the pockets of local politicians, managers and unions rather than into the schools. Take this as an example, school is free in France. Students are not charged to attend a university, period. The results have been overcrowding, crumbling infrastructure, disgruntled teachers due to low pay and no recourse for functional and up-to-date materials. A second example would be Canada. Canadian schools are heavily subsidized and still cannot meet their bills. Here, again we see: overcrowding, crumbling infrastructure, disgruntled teachers due to low pay and no recourse for functional and up-to-date materials.

    Subsidies are not Socialism. Anyone saying that does not know the definition of Socialism. They are thinking of cold war rhetoric and McCarthy-esque propaganda. Regardless, providing subsidies is a band-aid solution. The cause and root of this problem has always been the inexplicable and unnecessary high price – not cost – of tuition. What is needed are regulations for what a university should be allowed to charge for the services rendered within each state. The rest of the world thinks of American education as a joke because when students talk about their debts after graduation, it sounds like a punchline. In what world should students owe more for tuition than the average salary of a full-time, middle-class worker?

    The difficulty that students face in other countries around the world, except for maybe England, is not the cost of university but, the grade requirements. And that’s how it should be. If you work hard, you should be able to continue your education. Unfortunately, the United States treats this as a privilege reserved only to those who are either already financially sound or, forces the rest to indebt themselves. People want to flag-wave about free-speech and the right to carry arms? How can these people not fight for a fair chance for their children to get education?

    For anyone getting fired-up about this article and these topics, please, look up the actual definition of Socialism and it’s INTENDED ideals and not what you have been told to think.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Get Real

    college is overrated,lots of people with useless paper that says they're smart.toilet paper.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  11. Dave

    It this guy was in charge:

    Electricity is a right! Let's have the government pay for everyone's electricity.

    Clothing is a right. Let's have the government pay for everyone's clothing.

    Food is a right. Let's have the government pay for everyone's food.

    Internet is a right. Let's have the government pay for everyone's internet.

    Holy crap our country is in debt 28 quadrillion dollars!

    February 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Kirk

      That is quite the stretch you are making there. How is this that much different than public K-12 education being paid for by tax dollars? Especially when the majority of jobs that pay well enough to support a family would require some sort of advanced education. There are not a lot of good jobs out there where you meet the qualifications with only a HS diploma.

      I'm not saying I support his idea, I am just in support of people who comment on these things to use a small trace of critical thinking skills before doing so.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • frago

      The land of Mine and Gimmie is in full bloom. You owe me, I don't need to do anything, but you still owe me. When will we get back to the land of hard work and personal responsibility?

      February 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  12. mike

    My daughter attends college and most of her first two years of class are simply repeats of high school classes. Why not redsign the high school classes so that when a person graduates they have completed most or all of their first two years of college. For example every college requires history, enrich the class some and give the student college credit along with high school credit. Each high school class takes a 9 months so the extra time would allow for all students to master the college level class. Another example would be giving the student college math credit for taking Algebra 1 and 2. With these kinds of adjustments it would be easy for someone to come out with 50-60 hours of college credit.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Brian

      Mike – then she should attend a better college.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Dave

      Because then EVERYONE would have a college degree. Right now, there are WAY too many college degrees floating around, which decreases their value. A college degree doesn't mean as much as it used to. With your method, everyone would start having to get Master's Degrees to differentiate themselves, and then people would complain that grad school is too expensive.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  13. ash

    College is not free. Work your way through school or
    get a scholarship if you cannot afford it

    February 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  14. William

    So far every time our Government has increased Pell Grants and other financial aid, colleges rose their prices. As soon as Obama/Dems took over all student loans the price skyrocketed yet again. Of course we are not allowed to call colleges and its Liberal administrators greedy. With 15 trillion in debt, and the US dropout rates for lower income kids, how will we pay for it and all the other bankrupt social programs we have? What jobs will they graduate to? SEIU jobs? Taxing the rich and borrowing from China isn't cutting it anymore.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Cody

      I like how you blanket all college administrators as "liberal". It betrays your giant bias. "They're doing something I don't like, stupid liberals!" Consider that most college administrators are on the Right, if anything, and are merely good capitalist making as much money as they can.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  15. jb

    Typical college liberal thinking. "I should be able to take other peoples resources because life isn't fair."

    Let's bring back the word "earn". Or at least buy a dictionary for Johns Hopkins U that contains the word.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • William

      There are loans and grants specifically targeting very low income people and some targeting specific races. The drop out rates for those accepting this money is an very high. Do they pay it back? No. But the college administrators can drive off in their Bentley.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  16. john

    seems like a lot of people all ready have the gov. pay for college hell i see college students have rent,food and school paid for by the gov.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • William

      No, paid off the backs of working Americans and their ever increasing taxes. We need more trade schools.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • Steve

        Amen to that! Not everyone is cut out to go to college. Trade schools provide specific trade skills that help a person get the better paying job they want. Remember when high schools provided wood/metal/auto shop training? Kids would go to school for half the day and go to a paying job with a professional who would mentor rhe student in his trade for the other half of the day. My old high school was a perennial F-school and was recently rebuilt. The opportunity was presented for the school to provide trade training as opposed to being a strictly college prep school. Of course, they dropped the bomb on that one and went back to the format that was shown to fail in that community...

        February 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Kirk

      please don't elaborate any further than that, your argument is so compelling as it is.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  17. Kirk

    I won't say that I completely support this idea, but something needs to be done about the cost of a college education to make virtually any college afforadable for virtually any family. Doesn't America deserve to have its brightest students receiving the best education, not just the richest? Most people complain that there are just too many handouts in this country to the poor and middle-class, when just as many are given to the rich if not in the form of lower taxes from the government, then from rich parent to under-achieving child.

    When America is falling behind in creating job candidates for critical medicine, science, technology and engineering jobs, I don't think we should be standing in the way of the kids who are smart enough and eager to be involved in those fields but can't afford the college education to make it there.

    I would propose that any kind of "free tuition" or "loan guarantee & forgiveness" program only be targetted at students majorring in these technological fields or medical students who agree to spend so many years in general practice/clinic work instead of going straight to plastic surgery or another specialization

    February 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • chena

      the cost of tuition goes up in directr proportion to the amount the 'guv-mint' subsidizes....take out ALL guv-mint subsidies and see where the price of tuition settles....it is called supply and demand....more people can afford to go to college, college builds more dorms/classrooms, more people get guv-mint loans to go to college, the college MAKES MORE MONEY.....that does not mean more people get high-paying jobs....just means more un-employed people have useless college degrees, and more people owe the guv-mint more money that will never be repaid....

      not everybody should have college degrees....some people will always be needed to dig ditches, paint houses, serve food, mow lawns, repair cars, etc....

      February 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Ernie

    I am a college student working full time and going to college part time. Due to the economy my previous career field was downsized and I am forced to return to school to obtain a new skill set. Going to college on a low wage job is very difficult. I forego a lot of things to obtain my education. I work very dilligently to obtain the best grades possible and I am sitting at a 4.0 right now. I pay for classes myself, I apply for scholorships when I am eligible and I remain debt free. If the government paid for my education I would not appreciate it any less than I do now. I do see students who do not appreciate their education and I can understand the points made by some of the posters in that regard. I also have seen many of my friends obtain degrees that are not applicable to the job market, I supervise people with bachelors degrees and I do not even have an associates degree. What is funny, due to my age and experience, I am smarter and have a much better work ethic than they do. I have advanced faster then they have with less education. I would support a government program to pay for college if the applicant was working full time and retained full time employment during their education.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • MLS

      In Mexico City there is a major university where the students pay 1 peso a year. The attendance rate is deplorable and the drop out rate is enourmous. All because there is no sacrifice by the student.

      February 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  19. skeeter4580

    Of course he wants free schooling by the government. Hes black. If any one group takes advantage of every opportunity to not be responsible to pay for things its the black community. My wife asked her boss (black) what was out there for financial aid for her to go back to school to earn another degree and she told her that we should file for separation. Combined we make to much money to qualify but if we get separated she would be a single mom with a part time job and get the whole thing for free. Thats the thought process. We can't afford the handouts we do give. The billions for the home project went to people who never should have bought houses in the first place. thats why the banking system collapsed. Its retarded to even think about it.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Pendy

      @skeeter4580 –

      Better watch yourself. It is not permitted to criticize a black man proposing more government intervention.

      BTW I am also a graduate of the University of Michigan, although from long ago, and no longer proud of it. SDS and Tom Hayden were just starting there and had not yet fully polluted the place.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Kirk

      wow, could you be a bigger racist? My guess is "no"

      February 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • SCCISS

        Can't face the truth Kirk....so call him a racist. Way to go libratard.

        February 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Rove's whimsy

      No, the billions went to the banks. Yes some people did buy houses they couldn't afford but mainly they were manipulated by mortgage lenders who knew the buyers could not afford. The whole mortgage system became excessively risky because it was easy to hide the risk

      February 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
      • Joe R

        The real reason is they didn't understand the basics of budgeting and they were uneducated enough to to comprehend the risks of the papers they signed. No one forced them to buy the homes. If something seems too good to be true it usually is. Don't need college to learn that.

        February 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  20. Sheryl

    People are NOT being "sickeningly selfish". Such hyperbole! You dare to suggest that people are selfish because they don't subscribe to FREE education? That's over the top. You also assume that such people would eagerly pay for greater military expenditures?? Where did you see that?? No one has said anything like that! What most people are saying is that education will lose its VALUE if it is given freely. Just look at the value of public education now. America is all about celebrating and honoring the integrity of its WORKERS, those who seek higher aspirations and are willing to make them happen at all costs. This kind of integrity and honor is not likely to happen if education is subsidized. Rich kids whose parents pay for their kids' education are more likely to fool around on campus, party, and earn academic probation rather than diligently attend classes, forgo parties and fun, and get good grades (not ALL rich kids, but I saw A LOT when I was in college)!! People appreciate and VALUE what they have when they must sacrifice for it.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Rove's whimsy

      It doesn't have to lose value. I agree that if the student has some "skin in the game" they porbably will value it more. I think the idea of being 1000s in debt at graduation for a basic education (by that I mean up to college degree) is excessive especially when our taxes should provide the bulk of that.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  21. Dan G.

    Yes, let's add free college to the bill for those millions of illegals attending K1-12.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  22. Randomdude21

    I grew up in a state (Georgia) that has the HOPE scholarship. It's a state run scholarship, that is given it out to students who graduated with a certain GPA from high school, if they went to an In-state college. It has had to be overhauled, because it wasn't cost effective, and because many high schools began inflating grades so students could qualify for HOPE.

    To give you a snapshot of me, I attended Georgia Tech, and graduated on the Dean's list. During college, I worked, used the HOPE, and some other scholarships I received. I was able to study abroad in Spain, and come out debt free. I could have done this even without the HOPE, and could have chosen not to work as much, and graduated with an easily manageable amount of debt. I now have a Master's Degree at 25, and am still debt free from my schooling, despite not receiving any scholarships, or tuition subsidies from my employer, for my masters. I'm currently working in Economic Development, and teaching night classes at a 2 year school as an adjunct professor. I am also considering going back for my PhD and teaching at a traditional college.

    I feel that having government offered scholarships is a good idea, if they are managed correctly. I also feel that having government funded projects (such as research) that help keep tuition down is great. I DO NOT feel that it is a right to go to college. Before HOPE was reworked, I saw tons of kids who would go to college, and waste state dollars their freshman year, then lose the scholarship and had to drop out. I have also seen kids with degrees that can't get a job, or have taken minimum wage jobs, because they went to college for "free" and decided to get a major that was "fun" thinking it would lead to a job, simply because it was a college degree.

    Some kids should not go to a traditional college. I live in a community that has a thriving 2 year technical college, that offers wonderful programs to students that wouldn't normally be able to go to a traditional college, and it offers plenty of aid programs for students. I know kids who would have been completely content working in fields that did not need a college degree, that now have trouble finding work because "college drop out" sounds worse to employers than "high school graduate".

    Having every student go to college will dilute the value of diplomas. I've seen people who felt that they had to go to college to get the job I used to do part time in high school. I've also seen people in college, who lacked the education and/or intellect to be successful there. Letting every student go to college is also is unfair to students who may have had better opportunities elsewhere, that will choose college if it is free to them. And yes students will do this, I've seen it first hand.

    Yes I know we can afford it, and as a country we do subsidize many other things, but those are hardly rational arguments to subsidize all forms of higher education. Perhaps instead of trying to fix higher education, we can first focus on fixing public schools so that high school diplomas can again count for something.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  23. Casey in Michigan

    I'm a first generation college student That is 8 credits from my associates degree. I work two jobs and live in an apartment that's so small I can hardly turn around. I'm in class and work full time but I make minimum wage. I get the pell grant but I don't take loans and I don't receive welfare or food stamps.

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to have enough to eat for the month and and it's an extremely disconcerting feeling. It needs to be understood however that I'm extremely proud of the fact that I've suffered through days with no sleep and nights with no dinner to receive a degree that's really only a supplement to what I want to attain in college. 2 years from now I'll have an associates degree and two bachelors degrees since I'll be double Majoring. Even if I get a better job I'll still need loans to be able to afford a tuition and I might never make enough money to pay those loans back.

    The loan system is something I'm grateful for but some of this sites conservatives need to understand that a lot of people default on them which is bad for the people and government alike. Because the colleges in the United States requires so much bolstering and a large amount of useless classes , prices are through the roof and I'm stuck paying for a bunch of junk I don't need to get the degrees I want.

    Someday I'll be lucky to be middle class even with multiple degrees. Here's a list of things I've cut out of my life to afford school.

    A vehicle- Gas is absurd and I have feet
    Meat-I can't afford steak or even hamburger for that matter. Rice and beans is dinner
    Lunch- You only need to eat twice a day really
    New clothes-I have 3 shirts and two pairs of jeans. The last time I got new clothes was for work.
    Cable- In my dreams
    Internet-I'm typing from the lab at school
    Phone Service- Most places don't even have pay phones anymore 🙁

    Just be tough and you'll earn your degree eventually.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • larvadog

      Casey, you are an inspiration! It's tough but you're right, you gotta be tough. You'll do very well.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  24. RC

    For all of you so quick to want to trade in the mortgage interest deduction, what happens when housing prices drop further. No tax break=less affordability=less demand=lower prices. Since housing is under water already with millions owing more than their house is worth and since so many have their house as their main if not only asset, what is the cost of then supplementing people's retirements? What will the cost in jobs be when consumers have no equity cant' get credit because their main asset has been devalued? The problem with government solutions is that they all sound well and good today until they go broke down the road (social security, medicare, post office etc.)

    February 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Rove's whimsy

      Similar arguements apply to the education discussion. Do you think only people who happen to have wealthy parents should get an education?

      February 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  25. Ryan

    So many sickeningly selfish people in this country. When it comes time to buy more tanks to blow up people in the Middle East, these guys are more than willing to open up their wallets and fork over the tax dollars, but when it comes to paying for education and health care for your fellow Americans, the mood suddenly changes to "up yours, I got mine!". We should've had universal health care and college education years ago. Remember when Eisenhower was president and the highest marginal tax rate was 90%, and the rich were happy to pay it? Now we get a Republican conniption fit whenever Obama tries to raise the rate from 35% to 39%. So many people in the middle class and even amongst the poor who worship the rich and self-destructively oppose any attempt to have them contribute to the rest of society. Shameful, utterly shameful.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Dan G.

      Ryan, the only thing you got right was "shameful" .

      February 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • RC

      We pay for public education up to 12th grade, yet we have drop out rates near 50%. We pay for healtcare via Medicare, Medicaid etc. yet diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc is on the rise. I tinhk you misread what people are saying. It's not that we're unwilling to help, it's that we're sick of the wasteful spending that produces poor results. Clean up the mess and then ask for more, don't ask for more to be poured down the drain.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Sheryl

      People are NOT being "sickeningly selfish". Such hyperbole! You dare to suggest that people are selfish because they don't subscribe to FREE education? That's over the top. You also assume that such people would eagerly pay for greater military expenditures?? Where did you see that?? No one has said anything like that! What most people are saying is that education will lose its VALUE if it is given freely. Just look at the value of public education now. America is all about celebrating and honoring the integrity of its WORKERS, those who seek higher aspirations and are willing to make them happen at all costs. This kind of integrity and honor is not likely to happen if education is subsidized. Rich kids whose parents pay for their kids' education are more likely to fool around on campus, party, and earn academic probation rather than diligently attend classes, forgo parties and fun, and get good grades (not ALL rich kids, but I saw A LOT when I was in college)!! People appreciate and VALUE what they have when they must sacrifice for it.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  26. Sheryl

    This proposal will just spin out of control. As it stands now, a bachelor's degree is nearly useless. Why? Because MORE people have them! There are more people holding BA/BS degrees than there are jobs! Once I received my BA I had to take out loans for a graduate degree because employers simply are not impressed with a 4 year degree anymore. Federal programs have enabled more and more people to go to college, but the demand for jobs cannot meet the supply of everyone. Moreover, kids today know that their high school education is free and a lot simply don't care. Anything that is FREE is taken for granted; human nature dictates that people will actually WORK hard for their education IF they had to invest or sacrifice something. FREE education will not guarantee that eveyone will take school seriously. The fact is that some kids are really academic while other kids are looking forward to blue collar jobs. Yes, it is true. Some teenagers actually LIKE to work on cars, fix things, work with their hands. These kids don't always do that well academically and do not want to be on the college track.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Dan G.

      This is what you can look forward to in the equal wealth/equal education society. Everyone equally mediocre and uninspired in a “Give me” society until it’s realized there is no longer anyone around to take from.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • FreeReally

      You apparently haven't had a child in grade or high school lately. A free education is definitely not what they receive. Constant fund raising pleas, fees for everything the child is involved in, whether a reading class or a sport, requirements for specific, high priced school supplies, from pencils, erasable pens to only certain size binders or notebooks allowed in classes. I've quit trying to buy school supplies during sales because as soon as they get in class, this teacher won't let them use this color pen, or that kind of paper and will actually take away points if they do. And of course, everything has to be typed now, they didn't teach my kids to type, they don't provide the computer, printer, paper, ink, but handwritten papers receive 10% less points automatically.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  27. Dan G.

    "So was the Civil Rights Act." Give me a break from the racist card – please.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  28. Dan G.

    Yes, in the new Obama world let's have the government pay for everything; after all,it doesn't really cost of the government anything if you just print more money.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  29. Greg D

    So, we like the K-12 public school model so much that we want to extend it to colleges and universities?

    February 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Dan G.

      Let's not forget to add free housing and food to the bill.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  30. Mike

    I think it was good

    February 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  31. Ronald Mcloughlin

    As a veteran who reaped the benefits of the Korean GI Bill, having had only a GED education, I became a very valuable investment to my country. I cant imagine a govt denying any citizen the right to be educated as far as s/he can go. It's a benefit that Europe gives all its citizens as far as I know since such privileges are not published. I have met many yung people who cannot stomach the burden of debt imposed by the current situation.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • TalkingHead

      If you cant afford college then dont go. Only way to make college cheaper is to take government out of subsidizing their expenses!

      February 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  32. Mel

    Most are too stupid to realize the Gov't has no money of its own. All money is taken from taxpaying citizens one way or the other, either through direct taxation or the printing of money (which makes the money in our pockets worth less the more they print).

    February 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • TalkingHead

      True. People have NO idea how money works, even university professors like the author.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Rove's whimsy

      Right, those roads and schools just build themselves

      February 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  33. Al

    Interesting concept, but I don't believe it's realistic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 19 million college students in the U.S (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb11-ff15.html). This same website quotes a cost of almost $16K per year for public state colleges, and almost $41K per year for private colleges. There are no figures for community colleges, however. Further, the author does indicate that the government would pay for public two and four year colleges. According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), there are approximately 1600 private and non-profit colleges nationwide, with approximately 3.4 million students. Now, let's subtract 3.4M students from the total of 19.7M, and we have 16.3 million students left attending public colleges. Next, let's take the figure of $60 billion (quoted by the author) and divide that by the remaining 16.3 million students, you're only providing $3,680 per year, per student. And, that's only taking into account the estimated CURRENT student population. What about those non-traditional students who are already working, and would like to go back to school? I applaud the idea of trying to educate our children, especially as a parent myself. But, it's neither realistic nor affordable for us to expect the government to pay for the entire bill.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  34. John

    We should do this just as soon as we have our debts paid(which will be never)

    February 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  35. Ray from Austin

    I had a free ride in college through an academic scholarship and I squandered it and dropped out by my second year, not appreciating the value of what was given to me and not really having to work for it.

    If people truly want a college education, there are plenty of avenues that they can use to obtain it. Frankly, I think we should tighten the rules so that only the truly motivated can receive financial aid.

    We are throwing away money by handing it to someone who doesn't appreciate it.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  36. Justin

    Stupid idea!!!! How far does this "right" go? The OPPORTUNITY for higher education is there for everybody, and it is an opportunity that is earned by getting good grades in high school. If a high school student chooses to do the bare minimiumum to pass, why would we give him/her the classroom space when there are those who have put in the hours of homework required to get good grades? There ARE programs in place to help those who cannot afford college pay for an education, and I have no problem with my tax dollars helping those students out if they work hard in high school and earn the opportunity for a higher education. I refuse to support anything that gives everybody another "right" that they are not willing to put the effort in to earn.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Jorge

      If you want higher education to be more affordable, the key is to get government out of it!

      February 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  37. jdalco

    Just stop. The govenment is way over it's head in debt now, has no way to pay it off, and is already too involved in our lives. NO WAY should they take this on. The Socialst have learned nothing from all the governments failing in Europe under massive debt loads due to hand outs. You make this free and it will make college degrees meaningless. And don't even get me started on how our schools have gone down hill the more involved the government gets. . . Our kids public education is horrid, you want to do that to our collage education too????

    Shrink the government, cut the spending, cut the taxes and folks will be able to pay for it themselves.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  38. Neal D.

    Mr. Spence's proposal deserves thoughtful consideration and debate. Moving funds from subsidizing home purchases to subsidizing college educations is at worst cost neutral (per Mr. Spence's accounting of $86B for the former and an estimated inflation adjusted $60B for the latter) and at best, it is cost advantageous. Such a move might not actually harm home ownership - college graduates could purchase a home and channel income toward paying a home mortgage instead of crushing student loan debt. More study is necessary to consider other angles of this free education proposal, but I certainly prioritize the education of citizens as one of the best investments we can and should make.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  39. KJLB

    It is simple to get a free college education not to mention free medical dental and vision.
    You can also get free cable and gym use.
    Our federal prison system provides all the luxuries in life for free to those who deserve it the least.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  40. Michelle

    I'm ok with government paying for college BUT I think it needs to be re-payed through military or some kind of extensive non-military service AS WELL AS mandatory work at the college with a portion of the pay going back to the college (No LOOPHOLES). It needs to be made worthwhile for the taxpayers footing the bill. ALSO – you lose your aid if your GPA falls under a B-.

    Nothing needs to be free people. I'm still paying off $40K in undergrad & $55K in grad school loans. Man (woman) up! Stop asking for handouts:)

    February 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • John

      I agree with you, Michelle, that there would need to be some notion of giving back. I do believe, however, that the giveback is being an educated, working American itself. Society benefits by having it citizens educated and working. It's why I believe that it's okay to have the taxes paid by childless people go to fund public schools. Or by having my taxes go to fund fire and police services. We all benefit when larger community needs are addressed, even if we do not more directly benefit from it. Community service is essential, too, but it's not a handout if a larger purpose is served. That larger purpose may not easily measured, but we are all better off when our kids get an education and improve the world around us, whether in the public or private sector.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  41. kyle

    Im a 21 year old community college student who works full time and attends school full time. I don't receive any government supported financial aid; all of my books, tuition, parking fees etc... are payed in cash out of my own pocket. My life is hectic and busy but i'm doing just fine. Who's obligation is it to take care of other people? Nobody takes care of me; every ounce of motivation comes from myself. Nobody forces me to work but I do it anyways. I have friends who receive financial aid and welfare; they don't need it nor do they appreciate it. It feels like people like myself are getting the short end of the stick for working hard. RON PAUL 2012.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Michelle


      February 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Rob

      Congrats on your work. Good luck to you. Being motivated and educated you are setting yourself for a good future.

      My desire to continue government sponsored education beyond high school is not just about equity. It's about getting more people educated to their appropriate level so that more people are ready to enter the job market and help create a productive and successful economy. I think we need to get people educated to either 4 year degrees or trade schools. I admire your handwork. But you would be working hard at school even if it were sponsored by our tax dollars. It wouldn't take away from your future.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  42. employedparent

    My husband and I have been married 10 years, out of college for almost 15, and are both paying off student loans. we have one child, and own a home. I would GLADLY give up the mortgage interest deduction on our taxes if it meant that higher education would be more affordable...even if my own child did not take advantage of it. (Granted, I'd kick his rear, but still. As with anything, I'll pay for that which I value.)

    February 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Michelle

      That's great but it should be an option that effects people with kids (not a cancellation of the entire mortgage interest deduction for everyone). I don't have kids, don't want kids (don't really like bratty kids lol) and don't care if others can't pay for their kids college (I don't have kids because I don't want these worries).
      Single adults need to get some breaks too:)

      February 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
      • Alice W

        If you change your argument from helping parents to helping the person getting an education.. couldn't you take advantage of free education as a single person?

        February 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  43. Ron

    I am SICK of the LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES!!! Our society has become one focused on how do I benefit? Our congress has its' lowest ranking in history, there isn't a presidential conadidate from either party that excites the masses and all of you nay-sayers cannot see the benefit of investing in the education of the generations to come? I would rather see mt tax spent on ALL youth than a "Moon Base," or syringes for drug addicts. There are MANY students that are looking for any way to learn and better themselves in all scio-economic groups. Oh, and YES I consider myself a christian and when I face my lord, I want to say that I tried to help ALL that try to help themselves. I sleep nights just fine.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Rob

      Short sighted. No point in arguing with you.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Rob

      Sorry 'bout that. I'm just not sure I understand your point.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  44. Food4Thought3

    The real issue would be the effect of having "free" college. The effects would be deciding which establishments would be free, a diminished quality of education and outcome of the students (those who college isn't really right for, but go just because), arguments about the cost and experience of college, the further complaints about why aren't all universities free (let's face it, the elite colleges will continue to possess the best teachers and brightest students) and why isn't a Masters or Doctorate free (After all, these should be rights, too).

    Too much of a government that has a poor track record with funds? Yes
    Give them more power and money to have more inefficiency? No thanks.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  45. Jaellon

    So to sum up the article:

    1) We've already gone down the path of partly socializing college education. Forget about whether it's the right direction, that's the road we're on, so let's just floor the accelerator and hope it solves the problem.
    2) We're already spending tons of money on home subsidies. Therefore, spending tons of money on college subsidies is also the right thing.

    Do you see any logical fallacies in those two statements?

    Also, have you, by chance, missed the fact that the United States is BROKE? We don't have the money. Thanks to a drunken sailor of a president, and a congress that hasn't done enough to reign him in, our deficit has soared. We're on an unsustainable path that will land us where Greece is, and you call for spending more money?

    As for subsidizing education, look at our elementary and high schools. Those are 100% subsidized, but tell me about the quality. America is dropping further and further behind other nations. Graduation rates are low in many places, and what should be a high school education in many cases turns out to be on the junior high level when the diploma is awarded. It's great that we want everyone to be educated, but honestly, if kids and parents aren't committed to their own education, funding it for them doesn't get them educated. You just end up with failing schools filled with disinterested kids who frankly don't belong there, and who cause trouble for those who do want an education. Your plan would do the same thing for college.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • TSB8C

      Subsidizing anything always raises the cost. When the consumer (student in this case) doesn't bear the full cost, the supplier (colleges) will raise the rate to whatever they system will bear. The consumer is also less likely to try and negotiate or haggle a deal when they know they won't be responsible for the bill. How many of us with health insurance even know what our health care costs are when we visit the doctor or pick up prescription? We just pay the co-pa and go on our way and the doctor or pharmacy bills our insurance directly. We never even see the real true cost the provider is charging.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
      • Alice W

        The colleges already raise the cost to beyond what anyone can bear because they know the message of needing an education to make more money in the future means it makes sense to take out loans. And hearing that going to a better college means even more salary, I believe a student can be easily enough convinced that the investment is worth it at that optimistic stage in their life. If you let price completely drive the equation however, what will it sink to – a cost that WHO can afford, the majority? Sounds to me like the college would then be at best advantage if they tried to get as many wealthy people in as possible so that they were affordable to that group. And low income people would be completely priced out of the college market.

        I do see your point about free education meaning someone not as wary of the bottom line, namely a government organization, would be the only limiter on the price, but it does not hurt to begin from here and try and reason through the problems. Personally I would like to see colleges spend a lot less on building design designed to make a good first impression but having little to do with educational quality, and lower their price with these savings.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • jheron

      You didn't summarize the article at all. Do you twist everything this way?

      February 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  46. JS

    The problem is, the government doesn't pay for anything–taxpayers do. If you want a college education, find your own funding. Better yet, get a job.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    i have to stop and think about what all the conservatives have been saying. "why should i be forced to help other people", and that is sad that people do not want to help others. especially when the conservative base like to consider themselves Christians. do people ever stop and think that maybe just maybe that if everyone wasn't in it for just themselves that our country could be stronger smarter and truly better? maybe we as a country should try to adopt the idea that we are a unit that as a citizen in the USA that we should look out for one another... i do not make much money but i can get by if i would gladly pay more in taxes to help ease others burdens... but that's just me a crazy liberal and that doesn't believe in god

    February 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Jeff

      Completely agree, as a follower of Christ I think its absurd to think that Jesus did not command his followers to help others.

      Jesus on taxes: "Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and give to God what is Gods"
      Jesus on hoarding wealth: "Don't do it" (thats a paraphrase but its basically what he said)

      February 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jaellon

      No conservative is opposed to helping other people. I think the key point liberals miss out on, though, is that while conservatives are first in line to help someone from their own pocketbook, we balk at having liberals like you take my pocketbook from me, empty it on behalf of those you care about, and then pat yourself on the back for your generosity.

      You doubt this? Compare charitable donations between those who identify as conservative vs those who identify as liberal. Then compare votes on government social spending between conservatives and liberals. Both comparisons are decidedly lopsided, just in opposite directions.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • TSB8C

      I agree with helping others. But being forced by government dictate to contribnute a specified amount at specified times for programs and activities I may not agree with and that are infamously inefficient is not the right solution. Donating through private charities/churches that support the causes I agree with make far better sense and are far more effective with the money. Any dollar that goes through Washington first loses weight in the round trip.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Thom Van Vleck

      I am constantly insulted when people say "Conservatives don't want to help the less fortunate". That's Bull. MOST conservatives want to stop throwing money down money pits that do nothing but create a culture of learned helplessness over time. There's a difference. In my opinion, when you pay someone to do nothing you are the one hurting them, not me. I want to help them help themselves.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
      • jheron

        Enabling people to get an education will allow them to help themselves. A college educated person will end up paying more in taxes as they earn a higher income. It benefits society in the long run. What i would like to add is that colleges need to start streamlining there courses so students don't have to waste years studying subjects that do not apply directly to their careers if they have decided on a career path upon entering college. That is one other way to lower the costs of college as well as the amount of time to get a degree.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  48. guarg

    A poly Sci prof should know better than to ask for college to be a 'right'. That would get rid of all entrance exams and lower standards. the only purpose this article serves is to get the prof some professional development points towards his tenure renewal. No one deserves a 'right' to a college education. You have to earn it.
    Politicians use terminology like this all the time. he gets some quick attention by tossing the word 'right' around, knowing full well that it will never happen. Go look at the list of proposed amendments on the Congress website. You see the same thing there. Its a bunch of nonsense that gets attention without actually serving a practical purpose.

    Long story short. There is a difference between Government funded college and a 'right' to college. A polySci prof from a major university should know that. The fact that a public high school gov't teacher with a BA in history would have to point this out to a prof shows how terribly thin upper level academia has become.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Emily

      Everyone deserves a right to college, and the more people that go to college the smarter our nation becomes. its close minded people like you who are ruining this country. Other countries have free college, and they are also ranked smarter than us...coincidence, I think not.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
      • guarg

        if you research those countries closely, you will also find that they use their jr high testing to determine quality of high school and future career options. they do not have a right to college. They just reward the best with free college. Learn to read.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • glj

      OK, so we want the government to pay for college? So my kid wants to go to college, then I should be able to tell them "choose a school, choose a major in what ever you want, and Uncle Sam will take care of it". In theory that is a great idea.

      So, do we continue to use SAT/ACT scores to decide who can attend college, or do we dumb down college so everyone can attend?
      If we continue to use SAT/ACT score we have another sector saying "this is discrimination against XYZ"
      If we dumb down college, then the degree becomes uselessin the job place.

      Who decides who can attend school, even if we do not use SAT/ACT scores. What about the people who do not want to attend college? does this cover trade schools?

      February 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • jheron

        I imagine students would still have to meet the same requirements to get into college. Is entry into colleges generally considered discriminatory now?

        February 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  49. saywhat

    and who's going to pay for it? Oh let me guess, the rich.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  50. James H. Black

    My initial response was to disagree with Mr. Spence's proposal, but after taking a moment to really think about it I believe that we should look into what it would take to do something like that. I'm not saying "Yes," but I am also not saying "No." I have always believed that educating all of our children was a vital investment in our nation's and our race's (human that is) future. There are many issues to be concerned with in putting such an idea forward (not the least is how to pay for it), but I believe we should talk about this.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  51. mercenary76

    The government is a golden cow , pump its tail and money falls out . On the other hand , the reason everything is too expensive is because of government mismanagement .

    February 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • olden

      Is the author of the article aware of the GI Bill, or does he just think someone owes him a living?

      February 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
      • Rebecca

        The latter.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
      • jheron

        The author mentioned the passing of the G I Bill. Whats your point?

        February 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • RocketJL

      I believe the author understands that if he can't get the citizens of the US to start funding college students through the Obama government, he is going to have to pay for sending his own children to college. Gosh, I wish I could have made someone pay for a college education for me. We need to weed through the smoke and see how much is actually a guy just trying to get someone to pay for his kids college.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
      • glj


        February 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  52. pat

    When I want to college 30 years ago, a calculus textbook cost me 50 dollars. The information presented in it is as old as Issac Newton. Why charge so much?

    February 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • olden

      Now they are $180. New editions every three years so students can't buy used books. It's a terrible ripoff. I'm a math professor and I have written the text we use for calculus. I charge the students what Kinkos charges me to reproduce it which is < $20

      February 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  53. Greg H

    College tuition in many other countries is essentially free, but students do have to pass an admissions test and the number of slots is often limited. I know that college students in German get a need-based government stipend (called Bafög after the law establishing it) for books and room & board. The question of course is, would this provide the same benefit to U.S. society that public elementary and high schools provide? I think it would, but there are always people who don't want to pay for something they don't personally use - "Why should I pay for that road when I don't drive?" "Why should I pay for a fire department when my house isn't on fire?" LOL

    February 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • jheron

      Also on average college graduates end up contributing more to society in the way of taxes since they make a higher income ( which is why parents send their kids to college). I think most people do not realize how much we are dependent upon one another although we like to think we are not.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  54. Joe

    How did this work out for public schools? When it's 'free', nobody gives a darn. You need to have some skin in the game. Take out a loan (like many of us did), and you will be a bit more motivated to show up to class.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm |

      yes the ligistics would need to worked out tougher admissions and if you fail or drop out its now your burden but the idea is strong. we need our country to catch up in education.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  55. Ari

    I was first in my family to go to college. My parents had saved up no college fund. They did no offer to pay a dime toward my education. I paid for it. I worked, took out loans, applied for what seems like a million scholarships and studied hard so i could qualify for merit based aid. Here's the thing. In this economy, it feels like my student debt was a huge mistake. It's hard to pay all the bills. It sucks. BUT do I value my education? Yes I do. I know the economy isn't going to be in the toilet forever and I had to work hard for the education. The people who went to my college and had their parents pay for it did not value the educational experience at all. They were there for the parties. I think a college education is something you should have to work for and not just be handed. I would prefer to see something like if you get through school and get your degree, then you can be reimbursed some of that money that you spent.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • RocketJL

      Ari, you will be rewarded with a higher paying job. However, 'we' don't owe you a dime and I am sure you are not willing to pay for my education. Now that you know what it feels like to have the burden of bills on your shoulders, please tells your parents that you are sorry for being so self centered and greedy. Like a very large number of families in the world that finally get their first member into college, guess why.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  56. Chris

    Most people only have 2 kids because education, etc. is so expensive although they would have liked to have had more. Five kids and you think everyone else should pay for their college?

    February 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  57. Buddha2112

    How about mandatory military service as well. Or the Peace Corps?

    February 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Kelly

      That is an interesting idea, and one that economists discuss freely in schools like University of Chicago- the birthplace of free market economics. I think we SHOULD at least look into this- public service of some sort in exchange for educational grants. I'm sure the devil is in the details, but I think it is wrong to quickly discount this idea. It could be a win win if organized well.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  58. pat

    Does the author believe that the demand for college graduates exceeds the supply, or does he simply feel that higher education should be considered a basic right? Is this an issue of fairness or practicality?

    February 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • RocketJL

      I feel the author wants a government funded college education to be a right – well, at least before his other kids have to go into college.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  59. pat

    The cost of higher education is rising faster than the cost of living, just like health care. That is the real problem.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  60. william

    Typical liberal B.S., wanting the government, or "everybody but me", to pay for my stuff. This guy really believes that the rest of us owe him and others a place to stay, free food, transportation, health care, etc., for simply being alive. Well, life doesn't work like that, pal, and those of us who have worked for decades to get ahead resent those who are now demanding what little we've managed to save for their benefit. Well, screw that! You want a better life, take out a loan, get an education, and earn your own way. Time to man (and woman) up, as the rest of us owe you nothing, zero, nada.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • its me

      So you are ok with subsidizing the oil industry and everything else that gets hand outs while they receive record profits and pay no taxes on record profit but if your tax dollars are redirected on someones education you are against it? This ideology blows me away. I am not saying it is a great idea to make college free to everyone but I dont understand how ppl are so against that idea when your money is being given away to people who dont need it and you could care less.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
      • Craig

        The federal governments primary role is the protection of the country and citizens. Energy has become linked with our national security and therefore a legitimate target of tax dollars. I don't agree with corporate welfare however. That is the logic.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  61. Terry Maloney

    The government doesn't pay for anything, taxpayers do. That is the fallacy with the entire premise here. The question is, should I be required to pay for the education of other people's children? Even those who are irresponsible with their own money? I was responsible and made may sacrifices to pay for my children's education. I suggest everyone else do the same.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • think first

      You already pay for education now. It's in the form of school tax (via property taxes) that your County charges you every year. Why not extend the concept to secondary education?

      February 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
      • RocketJL

        Boy, this has got to be the dumbest reply I have seen in a long time. We are all hard pressed to pay for the things our community has, but that does not justify paying for a stranger's college education/party time. I want all the kids to have a basic education. However, when it comes to public funded college parties, I think I would rather pay to help the homeless and the hungry. I don't have a job, how rich do you think I am??????

        February 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  62. Rick S.

    If the government pays for college then a bachelor's degree will become the necessary entry level degree required to get the most basic jobs in the work force. Then, to achieve higher pay or a more advanced job, the graduate level degree will become necessary and the student will have to borrow or work to achieve that level of education. Someone will then ask that government pay for all graduate level degrees and then that degree will become the necessary entry level degree to get the most basic jobs in the work force. Then what, super-graduate degrees...?

    February 8, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Ben

      Well we certainly can't go around smarting up America! We should start charging for high school so that you can be even dumber when you get your job at Mickie D's

      February 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
      • Michelle

        Someone has to work at McDonalds right? Stop trying to take more of my taxpayer money to pay for other peoples' education while I still have $95,000 is outstanding loans!! What is so hard to understand? If you don't have money for school (1) blame your parents (2) get an academic scholarship (3) work study programs (4) student loans (like me).

        It's not my job to educate others – it's my job to educate myself so I can get ahead of others. Duh!

        February 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  63. Alex

    go outside and start asking people if they want to pay for your children's college tuition. None of them will say yes.
    But if you ask the government nice enough....they'll force them too!

    Do we even have ownership anymore if we no longer have the right to the fruits of our own labor?

    February 8, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • JeramieH

      Says the person posting on the Internet, developed by government funds.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  64. Want It

    I think the government should pay for college. And while they're at it, I want my health insurance, house, car, utilities, credit cards, retirement, travel, and entertainment all funded by the government. And while the government pays for all this, I want them to have the budget balanced, debt under control, the value of the dollar up, a high standard of living for me, my country safe, and maintain all of the freedoms my founding fathers established. Oh, as an American, I should not have to think, sweat, toil, or put forth any effort whatsoever for anything. Who needs the satisfaction of accomplishment or success? And in this self centered world, I won't ever have to think about others, lend a helping hand, or do anything that's inconvient because the government has it all under control. Whew!

    February 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Rob

      Your "house, car, utilities, credit cards, retirement, travel, and entertainment" expenses don't contribute back to the health or wealth of the country as a whole. Educated and healthy Americans will create a truly strong economy. It will bring in more than it costs.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:49 am |
      • Alex

        That might be true if everyone that received free tuition cared, worked hard, and studied something relevant.

        however, i foresee dropouts, imbeciles, and people taking the author of this article's class.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • Want It

        House, car, utilities, credit cards, retirement, travel, and entertainment actually do contribute back to the wealth of this country. These things come, for the most part, from private companies that provide and create jobs, which in turn gives opportunity for those who are willing to work toward a better life. Leaning on the government for everything under the guise that "it is a right" will eventually lead this country to bankruptcy. We have the freedom to be responsible for our own lives in this country; what a blessing!

        February 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  65. Bill

    The cost of college rose as student loans were made more freely available. When it became possible to load debt onto the student's own backs, the colleges were free to hike their tuition rates as high as demand would allow.

    If you really want to make college more affordable for most, don't allow student loans to be given out. There will be a period of several years before the cuts in tuition show up because the colleges will fight tooth and nail to keep their income stream as high as they can, but eventually, they will have to come to terms with their plummeting enrollment and cut both services and tuition costs. It is a dear price to pay, but the education will be worth more in the end, nobody will be saddled with high debt as soon as they graduate. this will free up more moeny in the long run and college educated people will have greater control of their own lives, by not having to knuckle under to the bankers who gave out the loans.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Rob

      I agree with you, but how does it address the equity issue? Or how does it assure that intelligent and motivated kids become properly educated so they can feed back into the success of our country?

      February 8, 2012 at 11:51 am |
      • Bill

        Entrance requirements will keep the unqualified at bay.
        Scholarships are available for the needy who qualify.
        Those who do not get a scholarship will have to work to afford their tuition.
        Back in 1973 the University of Maryland tuition was $8,000./year and their enrollment was low because college was not as popular back then.
        I got a grant and worked two jobs to attend UofMD, kids today can do that also.
        Now, it is very difficult to get into Maryland because of student demand and the tuition is sky-high.
        College will always be available but may not be easy to attend, you have to work hard to succeed.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  66. Rob

    It is time for National Healthcare AND National College (4 year degree). Both of these are do-able and would make us a stronger country. This is part of the success behind Germany and France. However. A really BIG 'however'. Beyond high school, government paid education should be based on high school performance and ability to tests. We've got to stop the insane use of colleges for the sole purpose of 'mainstreaming' the kids. Those kids that can't pass test and didn't perform in high school should not get free college educations (colleges should be about education, not opportunity). Kids that can't perform in an academic environment should instead be sponsored through vocational and trade schools so that they have the opportunity to succeed in their own way. Vocational and Trade schools should always be opened to all citizens. If I had it to do over again, I would have chosen to be an electrician. Much more interesting than working in an office.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Andrew

      I'd hardly call France and their perennially high unemployment rate and economic stagnation "successful."

      February 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
      • Rob

        And our unemployment rate has been something to be proud of. France has a lower debt ratio that we do. We just keep borrowing to pretend that we are better. Viva Las Vegas!

        February 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  67. Voltairine

    Money should not control a lot of things, like education, healthcare, news media, litigation, etc. If the government does not subsidize these things then the people whom that government represents support discrimination. Who but the children of rich people can afford the absurd costs of a college education? People should not have to eek out their very existence in order to have the opportunity for an education, both in terms of being right as well as the high and mighty claims of "our" Republic whose politicians tout their own virtues of supporting the education of the people they serve.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Alex

      money is the only thing that doesn't discriminate.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • Rob

        I'm pretty sure he meant that 'access to it' (money) is what is discriminatory. Everyone does not have equal access to money, yet money drives our opportunity.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
      • Alex

        @rob you act as if having money is based completely on luck. Someone worked hard for that money somewhere down the line in an effort to improve their own station and the station of their children...and children's children.

        My grandparent's we the children of coal mining immigrants, never went to college, lived in a tiny house, and worked hard to send my mother to college, where she studied a relevant subject. Then SHE worked hard to send ME to college. Now I work hard to send MY children to college. Not yours

        February 8, 2012 at 11:57 am |
      • Voltairine

        Somebody other than the college student worked for that money you mean. If you are lucky enough to have simply been born into money, then you get an education. Otherwise, you eek out your existence, as I stated, or you're in ridiculous amounts of debt. That just shouldn't be the case in an enlightened society. And money is the root of some of the most pernicious discrimination, corruption, etc. throughout history.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
      • Rob

        @Alex – A conundrum. You see, just because hard working people succeed doesn't mean that all hard working people succeed. So, it is luck as to whether your hard work results in success. I would suspect a large part of that 'luck' is driven by cultural bias. I've always thought that the concept of taking risks was bizarre too. There are many risk takers that succeed. However, a larger number of risk takers fail miserably. You cannot say that taking risks leads to success. Again, it's luck as to which ones succeed and which ones fail. Just because one thing is true, doesn't means it's true all the time and certainly doesn't make the opposite false.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
      • Rob

        @Alex, I'm glad that your hardworking parents were able to save (a sacrifice to themselves certainly) to put you through school. They also relied on our infrastructure, paid for by taxpayers.

        btw, I have no children (young or grown) and am early retired due to the job market with no (zero) social benefits. In my working life I have paid for your child tax credits and the educational infrastructure in place for your kids. I did not want to pay for your kids, but it was not a choice. If I am going to pay for other people's education, then I want it to include EVERYBODY, not just your kids. So that is what I think about you putting your kids through college. And I'm not sure hardworking people like your parents that sacrificed so much for you wouldn't be a little bit more openminded about came to helping people out. They sound like great people.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Rob

      Well said. I whole heartily agree with you. One caveat as stated in my opinion. Traditional college leading to a 4 year degree should only be provided to those that can demonstrate they are capable and motivated. Judging by high school performance and studies in addition to college entrance exams would help make that determination. But that doesn't leave others out. Kids that just can't perform in an academic environment or are not able to take on a four year program (college shouldn't be easy and everyone simply can't hack it) should be able to continue into trade of vocational programs after high school, again, sponsored by the government. Nothing wrong with trades. There are people in trades that out perform college educated. All of this would be costly yes, but it would make us a stronger and more productive country withe healthier happier people. That translates to $$$ back into our economy.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |
      • Voltairine


        February 8, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Johnathan

      The best way to lower tuition costs is to NOT subsidize it. The way we are subsidizing it now is college students are taking out available federal loans which they might not be able to pay back. Take away that and universities will be forced to either lower prices to more affordable levels or close their doors. A university is not a university if it doesn't have students.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |
      • Voltairine

        If they did that, then the Republic wouldn't be supporting the notion of public education or fair wages for the college professors. People who are against socialistic values just don't want to pay more taxes; it's simply self-interest usurping the greater good...greed.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Rob

      Jonathan – You've got a great point. But we can also control what Universities charge for tuition. Just because higher level learning is sponsored by the government, doesn't mean that Universities should be able to charge these outrageous tuitions. Look at the french education system.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Vet

      Want to have your education paid for by the Govt? How about giving back to the country by "earning" the GI bill. Problem solved!

      February 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
      • Rob

        I like your idea, but two problems. 1 – there are not that many military jobs available. Maybe military could be one option but perhaps other civil service opportunities. 2 – College education isn't free for GIs anymore. Or is it? It was before I joined, then they switched to a savings program where they contribute to an account for every dollar that you save. Now GIs don't (didn't when I was in) make enough money to save. Perhaps that has changed now and college is free again for GIs (?).

        February 8, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
      • Vet

        The Post 911 GI bill will basically pay for a 4-year degree without the military member needing to pay into the program. Today's GI Bill is much better the the VEAP and old GI Bill.

        I agree that the military is just one option. It would be nice to have other options to serve our country and yet still "earn" money for school.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
      • Voltairine

        As long as there are other government services that one can do, e.g., Rob's point #1, I can agreed with this as long as there are more options on how that service can be provided by students. This should not be restricted to military service.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
      • Rob

        @Vet – Thanks for the explanation. You have very valid points.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  68. Michael

    I could support the idea of the Federal govenment paying for college, but only if we are willing to support the restrictions that will have to go along with that new benefit. Germany pays for college, but only those who can pass the nation-wide entrance exam. The pass rate is around 15-20%. Are we willing to do the same? We continue to say that all high school students should go to college. That is wrong for many reasons, the biggest one being that not all are academically suited for college. If high school is hard for you, college is going to be even harder. The student with the 2.2 GPA needs to think again about his or her future. Going to college is probably not the right answer. Another problem is what degree programs are we going to subsidize? I as a tax payer do not want to pay for four years of studying Art Appreciation. Engineering, yes. Math, science, yes. What will happen is that we will have to pay for every Tom and Jane to go have fun for four years only to have a high percentage drop out and another high percentage get degrees in something that they can't make a living using. Until we are ready to discuss new responsiblities, I'm not interested in discussing new "rights".

    February 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Rob

      You have my vote on that. But the kids that do not meet the tough standards (and they should be tough), should be able to be sponsored through vocational school to pick up a trade.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  69. ShakaKahn

    let's just get rid of college altogether and tack on another 4-6 years of high school
    THERE, problem solved!

    February 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  70. bob_lawbla

    The government (in its varios forms) is in charge of public K-12 education and they're doing such a fine job driving that into the ground, you propose letting them ruin quality secondary education too. Brilliant!

    Let's spend more money we don't have for something that we don't need. People squander 12 years of free education, what makes you think they'd do anything with a free college education. If you take away the incentive for people to succeed they will inevitably fail. What happened to personal responsiblity? Easy answer, the Liberals in this country sold it for a vote.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Ryan

      There is a right to a college education. It's called join the armed forces reserves! I say we take away the pell grant and up the money given to reservists. Lazy people want college for free without doing anything for it.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  71. Ken

    Then all people should have the same standard for entrance into the university or college, one group should not be held to a lower standard because of ethnic background, Yes we would have to give up affirmative action, and all student should be treated the same regardless of the color of their skin or there economic background you have to have it one way or the other not both. I am tired of less intelligent student getting into better schools at a lower standard with full benefits because they are from a minority back ground equal is equal

    February 8, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  72. Brian

    Dumbest idea ever. Can't believe people are paying hard earned money to take this guys class. The last thing the government needs is another social program, they can't afford the ones they have currently! Also college is a finite commodity, there are simply not enough seats for everyone to go, so what will happen? Tuition will climb as has been done with governments intrusion on healthcare (another finite commodity). If a person works hard college is presently not unattainable to anyone already.... the problem is these days, people want to do away with the working hard part.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Rob

      Ever stepped foot out of the country? We are the backward ones. Really backward.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
      • T in Texas

        Ever notice in other Countries people that have a chance at education use it and don't waste it? If the people going to high school applied themselves and graduated maybe we would have the numbers of europe graduating college.

        February 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  73. Bill

    It is clear the author is a professor of political science, not of economics. If he thinks making the taxpayer pay for higher education would not result in added expenditures on higher education his is sadly mistaken. As any first-year economics student knows reducing the (apparent) cost of any good or service results in more of the good or service being demanded. This will result in every student who wants to "hide out" for four, five, six years or more going to college whether they can benefit from it or not. This will result in the need to for more faculty and facilities at a much greater cost.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Rob

      Funding the program is only half of it. The entire education system would need a complete overhaul (a.k.a reform) to make it work. In fact, it DOES need a complete overhaul regardless. Look at France. It works.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  74. Rick S.

    Two things:
    1. High School is supposed to provide the minimum education for a person to enter into the work force and be a productive member of society. Anything over and above this should be up to that person to pay. Let's figure out how to make our basic education better rather than extending it out even further.

    2. I DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR YOUR KID'S COLLEGE. I have enough bills and taxes coming out of my paycheck as it is. I pay for your Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Bus Fare, Education, Roads, Water, Electricity, Sewage, Garbage, After School Programs, Housing, etc. what else do you want me to pay for? I earned and borrowed money for my college degrees and I don't see why you and your kids can't do the same. Tell me I am my brother's keeper and I'll tell you to tell my brother to keep his hands out of my pockets. If I want to send anyone to school it will be MY kids, not yours.
    Too many things are becoming "Rights". You have three Rights: LIfe, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. No guarantees, no warrantees just the pursuit. Don't look to me to guarantee you anything other than I will work for my own pay and expect to be able to use that pay to support MY pursuit of happiness, not yours. Am I selfish? Maybe it seems so but if I keep on giving to you and yours at the expense of me and mine what type of idiot does that make me? Not only and idiot but an enabler. If I pay for your college then what motivation would you have to put that education to good use? Why would you want to work when you can just take more of my money through taxes to support you and your family while you stay at home eating candy and drinking beer?


    February 8, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Rob

      You don't even get out of the gate with High School anymore much less a foundation to enter the workforce. In order to get a job today you MUST have a 4 year degree.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
      • Adams

        And that is a problem. Many people are simply not gifted enough to actual earn a degree but even if you are the cost is prohibitive. This sets up a very dangerous situation where only the poor and unuducated(uducatable) can afford to have children and pass on their less inteligent genes thereby lower the overall inteligence level of our society. If a gifted child goes to 4 year colledge followed by 2-3 yrs of graduate school, pays of the debt and buy's a house they are likely (if female) to be above child bearing age. On the other hand if my disleexic neighbor has a child and worksd for minimum wage her family will recive housing, food, medical care at other taxpayers expense. To me the real question is how do we encourage intellectuals to both breed and be productive with their abilities. I should know I have a high IQ and decided to quit colledge after 6mo. do to cost both short and long term. I found that gaining any skill (automotive electronics was my choice) that no one else has or is willing to use will guarenty high pay. I was going to school to be a voc ed teach to help give children another option besides higher education to make a living. Glad I didn't make that mistake look how educaters are looked upon by the medi/public.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
      • Rob

        @Adams – I'm not sure about your premise of passing on unintelligent genes to all of your kids. I don't think genetics completely works that way. After all, good looking people have ugly babies. I think a tremendous amount has to do with environment, both physical and social. But I agree with you that vocational training (e.g. mechanic) will work for those that are not college bound. But why not treat vocational training as an educational option to a four year degree for kids coming out of high school? Base the options on performance and class selection in high school along with college entrance exams. Then we can appropriately route each kid to a successful future.

        February 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Rob

      Besides, I don't want to pay for your kids' primary or secondary schools. Pay for your own kid. And forget those tax deductions you get for just having kids. Your kids are already a burden to me. I'd much rather my tax dollars go to completely fund all kids to an appropriate level that they can contribute to the workforce and our economy instead of people like you hoarding for their own children at the expense of everybody else.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • SLJ

      WOW finally someone posted what they really have on their mind and I do applaud you. I am a enlisted military man and have 2 children of my own. One is 17 and graduates in June the other is only 12 however they have been taught the values of education and of money. According to the Government I already make too much for my children to recieve finacial support. My daughter has an 1760 on the SAT and that is more than qualifies her for most universitys however she unfortunatly has to settle for what I can afford at the moment and she is fine with it. I dont want to pay for someone else's kids to go to school when i have the responsibility to take care of my own first. My pockets dont run deep I have to spend wisely to provide for the family and home we have.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  75. Jeremy

    I wouldn't mind free college if there wouldn't be so many dumba$$es like the author going

    February 8, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  76. Jeremy

    Lets just give everyone a million dollars too, we can borrow it and pay it off later

    February 8, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  77. Chris

    As an Adjunct Assistant Professor at a private college(and a fiscally responsible Republican), I feel there are a few things to point out. Firstly, a college education *is* free to anyone willing to serve their nation in the armed services. Want to go to college for free? Great. Community College is free while in the military (The Community College of the Air Force alone has 350,000 students attending as we speak).

    Secondly, rights do not come into being simply because they would be convenient. The founders 9and their successors) of our nation gave profound thought to what is a "right". While we can 9and should) certainly be able to modify these rights, it should not be done lightly. What benefit accrues to our nation from expanding the pantheon of "rights" to ever-increasing levels? The mortgage tax deduction is not a "right". It can be eliminated by an act of congress. Plus, a strong case can be made that the deduction is NOT a "subsidy". It is simply taking 'less" of my property if I claim it. The deduction is useless if I am not paying taxes...all it does it is allow me to keep more of the money earned through my own labor.

    This whole article smacks of a poorly-considered knee-jerk reaction, based on what would be convenient for the author, rather than a well-constructed argument on the true merits of the proposal. I am sorry, professor, but your convenience is really not my problem. When my children are of age to go to college, my family will make sacrifices to put them through. Because it benefits *them*...it is MY responsibility, not yours to take care of my children. Similarly, while I certainly feel for your situation (although, ironically, if you are a full-time professor, you almost certainly receive free tuition for your children already), your quandry is just that...yours. Please try to remember the POINT of a "right"...it isn't to relieve you of your individual responsibilities.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Rick S.

      Not free to military members. The Gov't puts money toward your education but does not 'give' you an education. The amount of money advertised in the military recruiting ads includes all your basic pay for the period of enlistment (how will you live off of $0 each month?). I've had a few semesters paid for by the New York National Guard but it only pays basic tuition, books, housing, food, fees, etc. are extra. Having said all that it does help pay for college and minimize your total cost.
      The thing they don't tell you about the Community College of the Air Force or all the "College Credit" earned through the military is that little or none will be applicable toward your degree. I had over 70 credit hours earned through the various military courses I took for my job and NONE of it applied toward my degree. I was a 3 year Senior according to my credits but it still took me 4 years to earn my Bachelor's degree. Having said that, you can CLEP out of some of you freshman classes such as English 101, 102 or some basic maths and this is free so that would help.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
      • Chris

        Actually I obtained my undergraduate education via the GA Bill, and tuition WAS free. And the Community College of the Air Force, since 2997 has implemented a program called "Air University Associate-To-Baccalaureate Cooperative" in which hours earned at the CCAF directly apply to certain (about 100) four-year colleges. Additionally, it is important to remember that transcript evaluation is entirely up to the individual college....since the CCAF is accreditied by the Regional Accreditor "Southern Association of Colleges and Schools", it is very likely that all credits earned would transfer directly...but again, it is entirely dependent upon the receiving school.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |
      • Rob

        There was a time of the GI Bill (free college), then that was replaced by VEEP (Veterans Education saving account) where GIs had to save $$ for college, and I'm not sure what they do these days.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
      • Rob

        VEAP (Veterans Education Assistance Program) – A savings scheme, not free college like the old GI Bill.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
      • SLJ

        There is no free college any more and not all military personnel are in the AF other branches work differently the GI bill will do alot and i plan on passing my GI BILL to my children in order to ensure that they have the oppurtunity to succeed I have and will do my time in the military in order to take care of their future however it is not enough to send them to a university I will pay for the first two yrs of community college. This way my children will no become a burden on someone else.

        February 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Jerry

      As a hardworking student and full time worker All i want to know is can something be done to cap the amount of interest rate on my loans? I don't see how 6.0% can be justified.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
      • Rob

        Isn't that weird? You pay 6% when you borrow money, but the banks only give us around 1% or 2% when they borrow it back (a.k.a savings or CD accounts).

        February 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  78. ????

    Well hell, let's just make everything free. Oh, we have to take money away from someone to give to someone else. The only problem with that is that at some point, there is no more money to be taken from someone to give to someone else. 17 trillion in debt and counting. Nothing is free. It costs someone.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Rick S.

      Why don't we just hit up the millionaires and billionaires? They got the money they should pay! It's all their fault for being so damn lucky in life! It's not my fault I'm not successful like them I just wasn't as lucky as they are.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Rob

      Look at Insurance. It's called the "rule of large numbers". Insurance is a 'social' program and it works for the vast majority. Look at infrastructure like Water, Electric, Roads. All of them are social programs. It doesn't take a leap to realize that healthcare and Education are the same basic idea. We ALL need education and healthcare. The country needs us to be educated and healthy. We all benefit from an appropriately educated and healthy population.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  79. SilentBoy741

    You want the government to help pay for your kids' college education? Then have your kids do 4 years in the military and build up credit under the GI Bill, like everyone else does now.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  80. Colint

    Sarah Palin got a college degree without her parents help or mooching off the tax payer. It took her five years. To pay for her tuition, she WORKED in a fish packing plant ripping guts out of fish, as a waitress and any other honest work she could find. Student loans should be limited to those who have an excellent high school record and want a degree in a technical field and not social work such as lawyer, teacher, social worker etc.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Johnathan

      Wow, Sarah Palin went to college? I would have never guessed.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:20 am |
      • Rob

        THAT is an example of how our education system fails!!!!

        February 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  81. Old Bear

    Let's start lowering college cost by making ALL athletics and band and drama etc. pay their own way. Then we put reasonable salaries on Tenured professors and they have to teach a full load. The problem with "free" college education is that in this country we would be then "freely" educating millions of immigrants, legal and otherwise, and it still has to be paid for. Tax payers of course. Let's fund 4-8 years of good times for everybody.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Rick S.

      Let's start that at the middle school level. Our kids can't read or write but they sure as hell can dribble a basket ball, or throw a foot ball, or catch a baseball. All these after school programs to keep kids out of trouble should focus on education, not recreation.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  82. Rachel

    Yeah this makes perfect sense. Our country can't even fund elementary schools or pay its debt but yet we should pay for college. Another liberal loon.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Spot On

      The headline reads "Have the government pay for college" It should have read:

      "In the name of Socialism have the overburdened under-financed budget funded by 53% of the population (i.e. people who actually pay taxes) pay tuition for our kids so I can use my welfare card to visit strip clubs and casinos".

      "Loon" is being too kind.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  83. Wolfman Jack

    Most of the people who dont go to college are so poor and they are so black.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Rob

      Oh Wofman, go back to the 70s from whence you came....

      February 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  84. Dave

    I agree. And to pay for it they ought to eliminate all tax deductions like mortgage interest, child credits, etc. and go to a flat tax. Of course, the only government sponsored college education would be public colleges and universities. President Obama did approve a plan that funds college for any young person graduating from High School. It pays 100% of the in-state rate of tuition, $1,000 a year for text books and supplies, and pays a living allowance equivalent to an E-5 in the military with dependents. It's called the Post 9-11 GI Bill and simply requires the young person to provide public service in the military for a couple of years. While in the service, they receive 100% tuition assistance and when they get out, they can take advantage of the Post 9-11 GI Bill or pass it down to their children to pay for their college. And yes, this did pass in 2010 and is being taken available by our veterans.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Dave_Memphis

      Being enjoyed in Memphis. It pays 100% of the tuition at the University of Memphis, $1,000 a year for books, and a monthly tax-free housing allowance of close to $1,400 a month.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Former Sailor

      I understand your suggestion for prospective college students to join the military to take advantage of the GI Bill. It is a wonderful (and well-deserved) program. I would caution one thing however. The military needs to remain strong and unified. I would be concerned that the majority of new recruits would merely be signing up in order to take advantage of the "free" education. What would this do to the mentality of the US military forces? Having served in the USN, I wouldn't want the sailor manning the rails next to me to have the mentality of a "frat" pledge.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  85. C. Smith

    This policy isn't any more socialist than current public education is. It is, however, a poor extension. The current costs of college are vastly prohibitive to provide for every student in the US through taxation. On top of that, the basic systems of public education and higher education are different. In public education, you don't really choose your school, usually. Schools don't compete against each other except for in sports. People don't apply to the best high schools using their GPA and testing scores from middle school. Not only that, but people don't go back to high school to earn second degrees, or advanced degrees, or anything of the like. 100% public funding for college would require vast changes in how colleges work, and it would probably make them work worse. There would be major cries to end private colleges, there would be cries to regulate public colleges to guarantee that every student graduated, and to make sure that all of them had the same supplies, offered the same classes, etc. It would extend our currently broken public education system into a currently very expensive but still working higher education system. Even only offering a fixed stipend for students to apply to 4 years of undergrad would be too expensive to be worth it, especially since many careers in the US don't require a college degree, or require college alternatives like apprenticeship.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Nice try

      You write "This policy is no more socialist than..." then proceed to contradict yourself time after time. This makes perfect Socialist sense to a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  86. Johnathan

    Right now, the government cannot even properly fund K-12 schools. How are they supposed to also fund higher education? Imposing politics on university budgets will make the universities prey to political battles more so than they are already. In California, I am seeing the prestigious UC system fall right before my very eyes due to the state deciding to cut out millions upon millions of dollars. I can only imagine what it would be like if the federal government got involved.

    I am in college as a computer science major, and I don't believe I have the right to a free education (besides K12). Instead, I believe I have the right to an affordable education. If college only cost $3,000 in tuition a year, it wouldn't be so bad taking out those loans.

    Give colleges the incentive to lower tuition by threatening to reduce federal aid and state aid if they keep tuition rising. A lot of the services the UCs have are not needed like trollies, a gym, fancy restaurants. If they cut out the gym itself at my school, $600 in tuition would already be gone.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Rick S.

      What about the cost of text books? I paid over $800 for text books in one semester. That's over $1,500 saved per semester with your $600.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  87. Chuck in Jasper Ga.

    I've been saying the same thing for years. One additional factor to consider is that generally the more education a person has, the more they will earn. The more people earn, the more they will pay in taxes. The cost of providing higher education would in effect pay for itself in a very short time. This makes sense however so obviously our "government" can not afford it.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • C. Smith

      There's one problem with this: college degrees earn you so much primarily because there are so few college graduates (thus companies compete more for them) and because companies know that college graduates expect and need more money to pay off loans. If everyone had a government-funded college degree, a college degree wouldn't earn you much more.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:09 am |
      • Ken from Canton GA

        Paying for college doesn't mean that everyone would go. There are still academic criteria for admission. We would merely avoid the tragedy of the very bright student of no means being unable to escape poverty and contribute to society.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:42 am |
      • Rick S.

        @Ken from Canton GA
        Anyone can borrow money or work to pay for their college. I know this for a fact because I was one of those disadvantaged students with no means and I borrowed and paid for a Master's Degree. So simply stating that a bright person couldn't pay for college is a crock and it only goes to show that that "bright" person isn't so bright.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Dave_Memphis

      A college degree doesn't necessarily mean a higher income and more tax revenue. You got to have the jobs that pay the higher salaries. A liberal arts bachelor degree means very little in today's market. And salaries can't keep up with paying back a $100K education loan.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Gotcha

      You've been saying the very same thing for years? Then you've clearly been wrong for years.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Ken from Canton GA

      Amen! For an example of this phenomenon in action, look at Georgia's HOPE scholarship program.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  88. Matt

    How about only covering STEM degrees? We don't need to be paying for any more artists, poets and philosophers to be waiting tables.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  89. Alex

    So you have 5 kids? say I have 1 kid. How is it fair for both of our taxes to pay for 3 kid's worth of education? If you were so worried about paying for college, don't have kids.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • tacc2

      It's not fair. But neither are school taxes where someone like me with no children at all has to pay for other people's children to attend school. Public education is far from good, but it's still better than no education. I'd rather pay up front now to have these kids at least get a chance in life as opposed to paying to incarcerate them later.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  90. Dean

    Personally I am tired of footing the bill already for losers, those to lazy to work or those who think the world owes them everything.
    How about reducing the financial burden for non-parents and let them pay less taxes than parents because non-parents use less government services than parents do.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Nedla

      Sure, but without any kids to pay back your portion of social security and the national budget defecit, you should have to pay it all up front (using your reasoning). You depend on children more than you think.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Dave

      Yes Sir!!!! I've been saying for years that the government ought to give tax credits for not having children, not for having them. In Virginia where I lived, the average cost for providing education was $13K per kid. If you had 2 kids, that was $26K that the tax payers had to pay each year for your kids education. And yet, who got the tax break? Not the person that wasn't costing the tax payer anything. The more it cost the tax payer to educate a family's kids (more kids), the more tax credits the family receives.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  91. Rickin Cambridge

    Justifying a subsidy by citing other subsidies doesn't cut it-Prof. Try walking across the quad and spend some time with the Critical Thinking and Logic crowd.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  92. Jeremy

    As with all these things, the devil is in the details.

    My agreement/disagreement would depend on the answers to 100 other questions...

    February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  93. McBain

    I think as a country we should strive to get as much education to as many people as humanly possible. But, we don't even try. I would bet a lot of folks think public education is just socialism. If that's what my taxes went to instead of propping up the bloated military contract industry, I don't think I would have a problem with it.

    And I don't have kids and am not likely to have kids either, but I still believe education should be the top priority of our government.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • The problem is NOT opportunity

      As a country we already provide plenty of chance. But a good number of kids (with their loser parents standing idly by) would rather drop out and complain that they're not getting a fair shake than do sensible (and easy) things like studying and applying themselves. Fix that if you can, then we'll talk.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:24 am |
      • Ken from Canton GA


        February 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  94. Ron

    I like the idea. It deserves further study and eventual approval.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  95. Corey

    Let's just push our deficit to 30 trillion while we're at it. Look, I'm a financial aid adviser at a university and can 100% assure you, it is completely impossible to pay the way of every student in the United States without catastrophic debt levels. My college is small state school. We have quite reasonable tuition and fees. Our cost of attendance ( housing, meals, tuition and fees) is about $16,000/ year. Far less than a private school. It would cost over $90,000,000.00 to fund JUST OUR SCHOOL! There are over 4,000 colleges in the united states, some have between 30 and 50,000 students! The numbers are staggering. Simply put, it would cost almost a trillion dollars per year to pay for every student. Unless you make DRASTIC cuts elsewhere, or jack up our taxes to socialist levels, it is simply impossible to do so.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • McBain

      Or we can get rid of a bunch of administrators that cost double what most professors cost.... and really drive down the cost of education.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Chuck in Jasper Ga.

      You must have missed this paragraph in the article. Either that or you "think" you know more than you actually do. "As of 2004 it would have cost approximately $30 billion to pay for the tuition and fees of everyone currently attending a public college, whether that college be four-year like the University of Michigan, or two-year, like neighboring Washtenaw Community College. Even if we double that figure now due to inflation, we’re still talking about spending less money on college tuition for every student able to get into college, than we routinely do to subsidize home purchases."

      I'm all for subsidizing education over home purchases. If people get an education, they would be able to "subsidize" their own home purchases.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:06 am |
      • Back to your trailer park

        Clearly you have no idea of the budget problems currently facing this country. Bottom line: SOCIALISM DOESN'T WORK!!

        February 8, 2012 at 11:27 am |
      • Me

        I can guarantee that $30 billion is not how much such a program would cost. First, keep in mind that most public schools are subsidized by the state. Do you think the states would keep paying those subsidies once the federal government decided to pay for university tuition? Additionally, what do you think will happen to all the public colleges with a lower tuition than other public schools? In 2009-2010, tuition at Penn State was over $14,000. At University of Idaho, it was less than half of that. Why would any public school accept only $7000 from the federal government when another school gets $14,000? Instead, they would all jump to $14,000. And this doesn't even address what you do with private schools, such as Bates college in Maine, with tuition of over $50,000. Would the government pay for those, too?

        February 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  96. Bob

    H$LL NO!

    February 8, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  97. Eric

    Nothing would make a college degree worthless, faster.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Rob

      It's already worthless. Have you seen the job performance of some of those graduates? And they are pushing experienced people out on the street. That is definitely bad for bottom line productivity.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  98. Grumpster

    Not everybody is deserving of a college education. There had better be some very stringent policy on what someone needs to do to qualify for this. As of now, a college education shouldn't be something like a trade school where you simply learn a job..but rather learn to THINK. Just think of the corruption this would facilitate from shady universities like Phoenix University and their toilet paper diplomas...and all that online garbage that isn't worth anything. A university that would benefit from this should have high standards, and if you don't graduate or if you fail, you pay it back in full. No freebies based on race. None of that. You either get it or not based on your qualifications.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • McBain

      I disagree. I think everyone is deserving of a college education if they want it.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:45 am |
      • Grumpster

        I want a lot of things...but do I deserve them? Earn it. Period. You fail, you pay it back. Right now, most colleges teach a trade or a technical ability. Not too many teach to think any more.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Rickin Cambridge

      And who decides what is appropriate knowledge; the college professors who benefit by the endless supply of pliable minds. Does "thinking" justify four years of subsidized learning when the only use of that knowledge is a continued supply of teachers. i.e. If I learn Africana Studies like the author wht do I do with that knowledge? Why I teach a new generation about Africana Studies (what the hell is that by the way) and the cycle of non-productive people coninues ad infinitum and ad nauseum.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  99. Larry

    Extreme example of socilalist thinking ...... if you chose to have five kids, you should have thought about the cost of educating them..... I DO NOT want to pay for their education as I paid for my kids' tuition.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Grumpster

      Ummmm...pardon me, but isn't that interstate highway you're driving on another extreme socialist idea?

      February 8, 2012 at 11:09 am |
      • Back to your trailer park


        February 8, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Rob

      I really didn't want to pay ANYTHING for your kids. But, I had no choice. Can you understand how much infrastructure you used and tax credits you got for those kids? Do you realize I paid for their primary school and secondary schools? If they went to private school that was your choice, but I stilled had to pay for the public school to be available to them. So, you used my money, why can't other kids use yours?

      February 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  100. Cat

    "Government" funding isn't free. "Such a policy for me is a no-brainer. It significantly reduces the financial burden on parents and on students. No longer would a father and mother have to consider taking a second mortgage on their home or perhaps a second job to put their child through school." How do you figure? Are you planning on "the government" simply pulling the money out of thin air? "The government" does not pay for ANYTHING. WE DO. If we agree to subsidize or even absorb the full cost of higher education for all U.S. citizens, then we cannot do so in a decision vacuum– this policy would have a direct impact on taxes because that is the way "the government" pays for anything at all. While you may be making the assumption that your readership is fully aware of this, your article appears to tiptoe around the fact. I am not saying that higher education shouldn't be subsidized– frankly, I fully agree that it should. However, as an educator in your position, if you are going to write an article like this, you have a responsibility to keep your idea in the realm of reality, which necessitates including ALL the implications of such a proposition. The idea is sound, but the presentation is lacking.

    February 8, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Jay

      This is the worst idea I've read in quite a while. It points out the feel good "benefits" of educating every person in America and pretends that this would be free to the users. It's not free. It's paid for by the users in the form of taxation. So, instead of being able to make the economic decision to go to college (or not), we are now forced to pay for college whether we choose it or not. Oh, and let's not ignore the fact that pumping all of this guaranteed money into a "free" education is going to result in more people going to college, even if it's not in their best interests, and it will drive up the cost while driving down the quality. I mean, if the gov't is going to pay to keep all these schools open, then what is the incentive to improve?

      What makes us think every person SHOULD go to college anyway? It takes 4 productive years out of that person's working life (assuming they don't work or don't work at optimal capacity as the author also assumes), and it requires other economic resources (teachers, bldgs, administrators, etc) to provide that education. That's all economic work that we have taken out of the economy to educate people on the college level who may, or may not, be capable of benefitting from that education, let alone benefit enough to make up for all the costs.

      This is how and why we use the price system. College SHOULD cost money, and it SHOULD be paid by the people who use it. That's how we get people to make good and economically efficient choices. Frankly, if the government would get out of college education, I am quite certain that the costs would go down and quality would go up.

      The author an everyone else who votes should read Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson." It's short, and it is probably available at your local library. We would all be better off if we had just an inkling of understanding of how economics works and voted accordingly.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:44 am |
      • Catch-22

        Good answer, and a well-thought-out post... unlike the author.

        February 8, 2012 at 11:17 am |
      • Rob

        Underscore 'appropriate'. 'Appropriately' educating kids as they continue beyond high school. That means that not 'everyone' gets to go to college for free. Only those that can demonstrate performance (high school grades, high school classes, and college entrance exams) should be given the opportunity. A lot of people are throwing in the idea of service before school (civil service or military service). Some countries require service after the degree is finished (e.g., a teacher can be assigned anywhere they are needed to fulfill an obligation of a few years. Or a doctor, etc). Those that can't perform should have the option for a trade or vocation school. Just get them off the street and into a job!!! That is good for all of us.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
      • Jaellon

        Good book, and you can download it from http://www.fee.org/library/books/economics-in-one-lesson/

        February 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • unbowed

      Cat here's the idea in a nutshell–use taxpayer money to make public college tuition free for students who are smart enough to get into college. That's it. Let's assume the amount is three times what I proposed. 90 billion. The US budget is what...about $3.7 trillion? Working on the assumption that we don't move money around–that we don't for example end the home mortgage deduction in order to fund this program...we're talking about adding 2% to the budget. How much extra money would that cost you in taxes?

      Jay, i'm basically arguing that education is and should be considered a public good. You believe it to be a private good, best distributed by the market. I disagree with that position STRONGLY.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
      • David

        We already have a program around to allow deserving students to go to college. It is called merit scholarships – which you could get going to a slightly lower tier school. If your daughter is well qualified to go to JHU (great school, btw), she should also be qualified to get a big scholarship to UMD, which already has state subsidized tuition rates to begin with. And no, you shouldn't really have the option of a full ride to JHU when you're not a top prospect there- if your daughter is, then I also support a scholarship for her. Just because you can get into Harvard doesn't necessarily mean you deserve to go (but if you choose to go and pay the going rate, I am not here to judge).

        Education is partially a public good. But financially, it is still better managed privately. If the federal government wants to step in and do anything, they should offer fixed subsidies (tax credits) for attendance, which they already do. But anything else muddles up the cost structure and will simply result in a grave inefficiency.

        February 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
1 2 3 4