OPINION: Free college is a possibility, counter arguments aren’t good enough

Scott Rainey

Scott Rainey

Nothing confuses, intrigues, and makes Republicans say “someone should give that Democrat a book on economics” quite like the phrase “free college.”

It became somewhat mainstream with supporters of the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and this support has been passed on to Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York City.

Some thought this was obviously a good thing but others used the idea as an attack against Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.

Their point, I guess, was it isn’t economically viable for our government to pay for the tuitions of every student in the U.S. Somehow, European countries manage to pull it off without every single citizen losing their livelihood, and they aren’t anywhere near as rich and powerful as the good ol’ U. S. of A. Our friends in Germany, Norway and Finland have figured out tuition-free college, so it doesn’t seem like too much of a tall task to do it here, as well.

Making higher education more available will spur upward mobility that is necessary if someone wants to achieve the “American dream.” It would also fully eliminate student loan debt, which allows college graduates to spend money on the things they like, rather than paying back the government. I’m certainly no economist, but I’m pretty sure big business is quite fond of folks spending money on their goods and services.

But by making college free, wouldn’t that devalue a college education? Anyone could go, after all. This is a common argument against making college tuition free. However, it doesn’t make sense. Colleges are not going to suddenly remove all standards for entry, like grade point averages and ACT/SAT scores, but they will remove one critical barrier to entry — college tuition.

In fact, tuition-free college would make colleges more competitive. There are some bright folks who can’t afford to go to college, and if they’re able to go, then the richer folks will have some competition on their hands they may not have had before.

There is one large hurdle to pass, though. The GI bill allows veterans to go to college for free. Seems to me like the government wants you to be a soldier first, so they can carry out their international affairs as they please. They already spend an insane amount of money on the military (and cool Lockheed-Martin airplanes that don’t work). Making college free would remove some incentive for disadvantaged people to join the military. If that sounds slimy, it’s because it is. By the way, I’m quite thankful that our veterans are able to attend college for free, it’s not their fault that our government is set up this way. I want everyone to be able to go if they choose. Including veterans, obviously.

Every day I’m thankful for the opportunities and lessons I’ve received while attending Kent State. It’s much more than a diploma. College teaches you how to live on your own, deal with people you don’t like, work in groups and communicate effectively with others.

If everyone was given the opportunity to grow like this, then the country would be much better off. College is certainly not for everyone, but if tuition becomes a non-issue, then going to college becomes an option, for everyone. It’s now a choice that people can make based on what they want to do, not based on how much money they have.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].