Why Can’t Education Be Free? Because It Isn’t.

There’s a lot of Tumblr-noise going on today about the cost of education and whether or not it should be free. I’m not going to argue that the cost of higher education shouldn’t be lower, I think it is growing at an unsustainable rate driven by a variety of forces, but it should be pretty obvious to anyone with basic financial skills why higher education can’t, and in the US system shouldn’t, be free. 

To state the obvious (channeling a little tautology here): Things that cost money cost money. Almost nothing in life, other than perhaps air, is free to provide and as such it’s illogical to say it should be free to use. Things have to be paid for by someone, and the capitalist/US system has long said that people that enjoy the benefits of something should pay to enjoy those benefits. That’s the inherent fairness of capitalism and also its weakness from the socialist/communist viewpoints.

Education is expensive to provide, and getting more expensive. There are ways those costs could be limited and even come down, but people suggesting education should be free are suggesting the government, the same entity already running trillion dollar plus deficits, can somehow take over higher education and provide it at no additional cost to the taxpayers. If that were to happen, access will have to be more limited (the taxpayers/government aren’t going to be as willing to let people go to college just because they want to or study things that have no economic benefit to the society), options will have to be more homogeneous (after all, where’s the fairness in sending student X to a fancy liberal arts school and student Y to a second tier public school if their families paid similar taxes into the system?), and the result of the first two requirements will mean less campuses and fewer students overall. For examples of how “free”, or greatly reduced cost, systems work a look at Germany’s education system would be very enlightening: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Germany . Although Germany’s system seems to works well for them and in several ways is the direction the US is silently heading in (the formation of career academies, etc. to replace traditional high schools is an example of this), the access to higher education is much more limited there than it is here largely because the German system demands higher standards overall to get into colleges and their whole education system is far more career focused. The system in the US would have to be totally and completely overhauled for anything like that to work here, and whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s very unlikely and I don’t believe for a second people would be willing to take on a substantial tax increase to support a government run system that may turn them away. 

Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, education as a whole is a business. It provides people with the knowledge and skills not to improve their overall level of enlightenment, but to make more money and contribute more productivity to society. As such, it is an investment on behalf of whoever (whether that be the student or the government) is paying for the education with the understanding that it will result in increased income/productivity from the student in the long run. The government and the states have decided that completion of a high school education is so valuable to the country and the states that it is worth having society pay for through taxes. It has decided that higher education, particularly to low-income students or students studying certain fields, is worth subsidizing. What it has not decided is that the current system, where anyone can go and study whatever they want, is worthy of paying for through taxes all together, and I don’t see why they should. 

As always, your input, comments, etc. are welcome.

-M

Original posts:

somepolitics:

brosephstalin:

giantsteps360:

This is a naive notion. Granted, I don’t like America’s ubiquitous military presence in the world. We spend far too much money on it and our overreach tends to bite us in the ass in the absolute worst ways (one need look no further than September 11, 2001). However, yes, it is very naive to think that we

1) Shouldn’t drop bombs on nations who are absolute aggressors and dangers to the public at large

2) That education should be free. 

Education shouldn’t be free, absolutely not. Not now, not ever, never ever ever should education be free. Never.

brosephstalin:

thalamtnafsee:

This is literally mind boggling: 

For the 2009–10 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions.

Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation.

[take a look at the chart here

In 2012, student debt because of loans will reach $1 Trillion, surpassing credit card debt as the largest group of debt. Private lenders (like Sallie Mae which holds the most loans, five times more than the second largest lender, Wells Fargo) are unregulated in their practices, resulting in things like charging fees to prove you’re unemployed and having abhorrent interest rates, even as high as 10% and beyond. 

The Student Labor Action Project and United States Student Association are beginning a campaign to help alleviate this one symptom in our failed education system. It is not the end-all of the education crisis, but it is a start, and an urgent one since student debt very well might be the next bubble to burst (one can’t discharge their student debt when declaring bankruptcy) 

Sign the petition here

Fight for not only no debt for students, but for a future with free education for all!

Define aggressive, since we are often the ones to shoot first, or our previous policies of imperialism make it so if we were in their situation, we’d probably want to attack us too. 

And I don’t see why it shouldn’t be free. It is not a business, it is an institution that betters the lives of anyone willing to put in the effort to study and put in the time to gain knowledge to make them a better person and so they can live a better life, it is not so companies can exploit people wanting to make their lives better.

God, giantsteps360 is really taking shit today.

With good reason.

Why shouldn’t education be free? Just answer that. Tell me your opinion. Please. I’m genuinely curious to know.

Source: desmonsters

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6 Comments

Filed under Politics

6 responses to “Why Can’t Education Be Free? Because It Isn’t.

  1. Chelsea Heaps

    Education should be free. It is an essential part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The US is way behind regarding education and should devote WAY more funding to it in order to ensure our future livelihood.

    • To what end though? And how? People survived and succeeded as recently as the 60s and 70s without a college education. I think the US places too much importance on simply having a degree than having skills or knowledge relevant to your career options and interests. A degree alone may make you a more enlightened person, but it shouldn’t be the government’s responsibility to pay for something that doesn’t also have a direct economic benefit. The US needs a reality check in a lot of ways on education, but to devote WAY more funding will require WAY higher taxes and a lot stricter requirements for students seeking higher education (being able to go just because you think you should/want to would be a thing of the past) and I don’t see that happening.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      -Matt

      • Chelsea Heaps

        I think education should be free for those who want it. Not everyone needs to go to college persay (although I would argue everyone need K-12.)

        In certain European countries, students are given free loans to go to University and can then contribute so much more to the workforce.

        Of course, it will never happen here as the US is too capitalistic. We need major political change before we can have educational change.

      • The problem is far too many people want it, or are told they need it, than the government or society should be willing to pay for. Anything that costs money needs to be justified somehow, and “wanting” things is how Americans got themselves into the housing crisis (helped by loan providers capitalizing off these wants), credit card debt, etc.

        The cost to society to provide an education is very high, but as I mentioned, we’ve decided that it’s worth it for the K-12 period and those taxes are paid by the community, then some state, then some federal. Communities, states, and the federal government already offer scholarships (subsidies essentially) to students from certain backgrounds or going into certain fields, and I think that is a smart way to invest since the overall benefit is achieved at much lower cost that socializing the whole system and restricting access.

        If you have a chance, take a look at the German system and tell me what you think. It achieves a lot of the goals people seem to want for the US system but once they see the way it limits access and results in “classes” of schools a lot of them don’t like it as much anymore so I always find the opinions interesting. You can’t have open access and unlimited selection and still have a “free” (taxpayer supported) system like Germany or the other European countries, and few Americans seem to realize that. We all just want the good things of the European systems and the good things of the American system without having to pay for it. Haha, sounds great, and who can blame us, but it’s not realistic.
        -Matt

      • Chelsea Heaps

        Yeah I feel you on that, the German system does make a lot of sense, but Americans would despise not being able to pick and choose coursework. For now, I understand why we pay for college, and I’m down to pay (I go to a Liberal Arts College and it’s worth the big $). But still, it goes to show only those who can afford it will be educated and the rich will just get smarter…and richer.

      • Exactly. The German system is actually a very logical approach to having a productive society without sacrificing educational options, but it’s hardly the free marketplace of higher ed Americans are used to.

        For my perspective on this, I worked like crazy back in high school and was fortunate enough to get academic scholarships to cover my undergraduate education, so I managed to escape debt free. I realize I’m the minority there, but I do use it as evidence that “poor” kids can be smart, do well, and climb the ladder with hard work. So I do consider myself at least a small piece of evidence that our system still rewards hard work and motivation, regardless of socioeconomic status. Now if only I could go through med school without huge amounts of debt, haha!

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