The real cost of free college

New York legislation state-funding four-year college degrees

So recently the state of New York passed legislation mandating that the state pay for students attending four-year state schools in New York.

Now, this is not without stipulations; the household income must be under $100k per year, students must enroll immediately after high school and remain a full-time student for the duration of their degree and there will likely be a GPA requirement as well.

Beyond that, students that take part in this program must also live and work in New York after college for the number of years that they received aid, or they have to pay back the money.

However, this program is open to both incoming and current students as well as non-native and non-resident New Yorkers.

For starters, why oh why are we not investing more heavily in trade and vocational schools? I’m going to speak up so the people in the back can hear me: College. Is. Not. For. Everyone. There are so many in-demand, well-paying jobs with fantastic benefits that you do NOT need a bachelor’s degree for. This program only perpetuates the idea that everyone needs a four-year education.

Point number two on this list stems from conversations I have had with actual professors and administrators, either because of work or class discussion. Do you remember high school? Now, do you remember how productive you were in high school? Any and every parent that falls under the free tuition threshold will push their kid into college because it is obviously the only key to their little angel’s success. But riddle me this: what in the hell is that kid’s motivation to succeed? To push themselves in difficult classes? The answer: nada. Studies show that students who don’t pay for a significant portion of their college tuition, either because of the government or their family fitting the bill, are much more likely to not attend classes, not participate in activities and discussions and ultimately, withdraw from courses they find too challenging. Why should they care about repeating a $1,500 class? It’s not like they’ll have to pay for it.

The next obvious issue is flooding the workforce with people that have identical educations. Speaking as someone that is actively job searching for next spring, and who has seen friends graduate and struggle, let me tell you: it is hecking brutal out there. Job competition is at an all-time high. How on earth is this going to help that situation? It is going to reach the point where a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma, and anybody that wants a competitive edge will have no choice but to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree.

Something else to keep in mind: this is a death sentence for private institutions. While I myself have never attended such a place, I absolutely understand their merit. State schools are not for everyone; some students learn better in a focused, more concentrated environment. Sure, the people making more than the $100,000 threshold that would have sent their kids to a private school anyway will still do so. But what about those students that absolutely cannot flourish in a class of 6,000 or more people? What happens to them? Their parents see a lack of dollar signs on every state school brochure and their choice is suddenly taken out of the equation.

I chose not to touch on the fiscal ramifications because those revolve strongly around my personal beliefs in capitalism, and there are plenty of other good reasons to hate this program besides the fact that it is taking more money from tax payers to, effectively, create a ton of problems in the work force.

Our federal and state government should know better. When you give something away for free, the demand for it increases. Students under the $100,000 threshold that could have worked and payed for a significant portion of their education now no longer have to. If you’re going to increase spending on higher education, focus it on increasing subsidized loans or need-based grants. Better yet, place strict limits on loan amounts so that students can’t unwittingly plunge themselves into debt and universities can’t continue to hike up prices.