Like 30 Other
Government studies show we are already spending far more money in grants, aid, loans, and tax breaks for higher education than is needed to make all public universities and community colleges free. Making public colleges free would put pressure on private universities to reduce their costs to compete.
The democratic notion of free college education, offering equal opportunity to all, has a very long history in America. Education is an important investment in our future and would help America become a land of opportunity again. Thirty other countries offer free college and vocational education and many countries that don’t, have cheap rates.
Our government actually spends far more helping the rich go to college than the average person. Over $30 billion of our taxpayer money goes to for-profit colleges that scam poor people, produce low achievement, sky-high dropout rates, financial ruin, and 50% of all student loan defaults. Student debt is now a lifelong drag on our economy.
To release the potential of our youth and keep our economy competitive world wide, we need free college, like Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, San Francisco, Denver, and Pittsburg already have.
Free College & Vocational Education, Like 30 Other Countries (Full Text)
The democratic notion of free college education, offering equal opportunity to all, has a long history in America. Thomas Jefferson created our first free college system, the University of Virginia.
By the mid-1850s, many people understood giving farmers and working class people a college education would help make our country great. Abraham Lincoln massively expanded the free college system with 54 land-grant universities providing free tuition and subsidized rail travel. They even admitted women and black people.
Throughout much of the 1900s, both state systems and even private universities provided college education at a low cost. Our GI Bill of 1944, paying college expenses plus a living allowance to all military veterans, was a spectacular success, giving our economy up to an 800% return on our investment.
During the 1950s and 1960s, many states invested in the future by offering their residents completely free college. Even now, Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, San Francisco, Denver, and Pittsburg have new free college programs and many other states and cities are working toward them.
Countries offering free college education include Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Scotland, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia, Cyprus, Mexico, Panama, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Egypt, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, and Russia.
Many of these countries offer free graduate school, too. Slovenia gives foreigners free college, even Americans, and plenty of classes are taught in English. Argentina, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Morocco, Uruguay, and Venezuela have nearly free college and many other countries have cheap rates.
England limits the cost of college and after you graduate, you don’t have to pay anything on your college loans until your income reaches $35,000 a year. Then you only pay 9% of your income. After 30 years, if you haven’t been able to pay your college loan, England cancels the debt.
In 1965 in America, the averge tuition at 4-year public universities was just $243. During the 1960s and 1970s, you could pay for a year of college by working in a factory or mill for 3 months. In the last 30 years, however, the average tuition at 4-year public colleges has risen by 250% while average family income has only risen 16%.
Since 1987, states have cut funding for colleges by about 44%, often while cutting taxes on the rich. Many schools now base financial aid on merit, which often ends up going to privileged, wealthy students with high test scores whose parents can afford tutoring, educational tools, and transportation for many extracurricular activities.
Our government now spends far more helping the rich go to college than the average person. For example, the annual government subsidy for a student at Princeton University is about $54,000 per student, while the average subsidy for a student at a public university is less than $4,000.
Federal money from taxpayers provides over 40% of the budget of private universities. Our expensive private elite colleges also receive about $550 billion of dollars in contributions from wealthy people who get tax deductions for their donations.
For-profit colleges, often owned by private equity firms or hedge funds, used lobbying to eliminate rules so they could maximize profits by providing a poor education. Many of the largest ones often use misleading ads, pressure tactics, and scam bait-and-switch telemarketers and websites, often promising Medicaid or health benefits, jobs, food stamps, heating benefits, or $1,000 Target or Best Buy gift cards.
They often advertise on New York subways or late night TV and target poor people, veterans, and racial minorities. Some for-profit colleges go to welfare offices to find students.
Next, they push people into ridiculously overpriced online courses for useless degrees. The College Board says for years, for-profit colleges charged students nearly five times the cost of community colleges.
A May 2016 study found for-profit college graduates and dropouts combined earn less after leaving school than they did before they enrolled. Government investigations found strong evidence 7 of the top 10 for-profit colleges deceived their students about the cost of tuition, job placement rates, and likely starting salaries and left them jobless and buried in student loan debt.
Many of the big for-profit colleges get 85% or more of their money from federal student aid. They can collect tens of thousands of dollars in federal aid for each student. For-profit colleges collect over $30 billion of our taxes each year, more than any other private business sector in America.
They spend a lot of that taxpayer money on marketing, including the scams and paying celebrities for advertising. Bill Clinton made $17.6 million representing a for-profit college. In 2009, for-profit colleges spent only 17% of their budgets on teaching and 42% on marketing and profits for their investors.
For-profit colleges educate about 10% of our students while they suck up 25% of taxpayer-funded Pell grants and federal aid and produce low achievement, sky-high dropout rates, financial ruin, and 50% of all student loan defaults. The graduates of 72% of for-profit schools earn less, on average, than high school dropouts.
Over the last decade, colleges and universities have spent over $1 billion on lobbying to escape regulation and keep things the same. Members of Congress, with an average of 11 higher education institutions in their districts receiving a median of $167 million in federal aid in 2012, also want to keep the money flowing.
About 60% of college students graduate with debt and the average debt is now $27,000, which adds up to $1 trillion in loans to the federal government. The effect is a life-long drag on graduates and our economy.
Community bankers have long told lawmakers massive student debts are hurting their home mortgage and auto loan businesses. In the long run, our graduates will have $4 trillion less to spend on things like cars, homes, and refrigerators during their lifetimes. We need debt relief for student loans.
Our system of Pell grants for any college and easy credit for students lets colleges constantly raise tuition, pay multi-million dollar salaries to coaches and college presidents, six-figure salaries to university administrators, and build fancy buildings, swimming pools, gyms with rock walls, and dormitories.
Government studies show we are already spending far more money in grants, aid, loans, and tax breaks for higher education than is needed to make all public universities and community colleges free.
The total for tuition at all our public colleges is $62.6 billion. In 2013, our government spent $69 billion on Pell Grants, tax credits, exemptions, and deductions, and work-study funding, plus another $107.4 billion on student loans.
Our states are also losing billions of dollars each year to Section 529 college saving plans, which rich people can actually use as tax shelters for multiple generations. Over 12 million people hold over $258 billion in tax-free 529 college saving accounts. If they decide to buy a yacht instead of using the money for college, they only pay both income tax and a 10% penalty on only their investment gains.
This means we are already spending far more on our patchwork of financial aid than we need to just make all our public colleges free. Making public colleges free would put pressure on private universities to reduce their costs to compete.
We should give workers the skills they need for jobs with free vocational training, by developing more apprenticeship programs, and by letting corporations help design educational programs, and as they do in countries like Germany, China, Sweden, and Singapore. By doing this, these countries have created thriving manufacturing sectors.