FACE OFF: Should higher education be publicly funded?


The idea of free college sounds appealing, that is no question. But Democratic Candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ fantasy simply does not work. At least, if you care about anyone’s money it doesn’t.

Before I get into details, I’ll sum it up. If college is free, who pays for it? If you say the rich, you’re wrong. They have no requirement to pay for less wealthy people’s expenses, as a study from Cato Institute states only around 20% of America’s wealth was inherited, contrary to popular belief. And worst case scenario, if the incredibly rich were taxed too heavily, they would happily leave the country, effectively cliff-dropping the economy.

The other possibility is a universal tax increase for all American citizens. The funny part is you would end up spending more through taxes on government college funding than you would on your own tuition. Not to mention, those who don’t even go to college would still be forced to pay. In New York public universities roughly only 1 in 5 students even graduate, according to nycfuture.org. That said, these students are still getting student loans only to drop out and lose immense amounts of money, and waste the government’s money on a massive scale. New York is the nation’s 16th wealthiest state by income (usnews.com), and it is possibly worse in poorer states. Everyone would still have to pay for the dropout’s tuition through taxes.

Additionally, with the availability of free college people would flock to more expensive private colleges, as a study by forbes.com states the average private college graduate makes $1 million more in their lifetime than a non-college graduate. The influx of students would require intense choosing scrutiny or an expansion of college class sizes, which would be even more expensive. People would pursue private college because a Harvard Business School study stated that the more money someone has, the more happy they are as well.

While the government has room to subsidize education more, there has to be a hard line. Free college offers a degree and tuition money to everyone, but the sad truth is many potential students lack the will or motivation to pursue said degree, wasting time and money.

Of course scholarships are good for people with academic potential, but free college is a terrible waste of money. The upper class would end up paying immense taxes, which would simply not be enough. Without the necessary taxes, the government would be pushed deeper into debt, and the middle class would be left behind as they are also taxed higher despite struggling to pay off their student loans in the past.



“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and must be willing to bear the expense of it.“ Founding Father and President John Adams, 1785


The American Government has always had its shortcomings, especially in providing for the communities most in need. But what is a government if not an attempt to sustain the nation for the future?

An informed public improves the social and economic welfare of a democratic state. As Investopedia summarizes, “Countries with a greater portion of their population attending and graduating from schools see faster economic growth than countries with less-educated workers…In this sense, education is an investment in human capital, similar to an investment in better equipment.” Furthermore, more money is added to the economy, circulating and stimulating. More social programs (that now have less in-need constituents to serve) are fully funded, allowing more people a better chance at the American Dream: climbing the class ladder.

Yet, The Brookings Institute found “Student financial aid has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, while state direct aid to institutions has stagnated.”

A dissonance between the necessity of the population and the priorities of government becomes clearer. Of course, spending money to get money never feels great, especially as social aid as seen as taking smart people’s hard earned and handing it off to the poor. Well, if you have attended a public elementary to high school, or walked through a public park, you have seen social reform in the form of your tax money in action. Had no hard working Americans been cheated of their money, you would not have the street cleaner hired to pick up your trash, or the engineer helping your city planner cut down traffic.

We should strive to give every person in the United States a chance at pursuing education past high school. Trade school, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and even Graduate programs should be attainable for hardworking individuals, and the purpose of creating an educated, critical thinking citizenry should be emphasized. If there is a path clearly available for working class children and adults to climb the ladder, they will not have to choose between a “maybe” dream or laboring at a minimum wage job. Why do we let these brains turn into factory machines, instead of nurturing them to their potential?

Every American, now and more so in the future, should feel incentivized to invest in each other’s education.