Democrat Bernie Sanders and millions of “Bernie Bros” across the nation – his supporters – seem to think American college students “deserve” to have the United States government cover their tuition costs. Today, tens of thousands of college students will visit polling stations in student centers at Florida State, the University of Florida, and dozens of other institutions of higher learning to cast ballots in the Florida primary in support of that idea.
But it’s an awful one. Here’s why.
I’m in my junior year in college, completely paying my own way. I go to school full time, in addition to working part time with extracurricular activities that I participate in on a weekly basis. Through this experience, I have gained an appreciation for the value of my college degree that could never be experienced if college was simply “free.”
It is simply not fair to me – and the vast majority of students like me – that the hard work and effort invested in earning a college degree can be devalued with a simple hand wave by my peers and members of the older generation who constantly preach about the “need for free college.” I genuinely see it as an insult.
Here’s an outline of Sanders’ plan:
- Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.
- Cancel all student loan debt for the 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
- Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- End equity gaps in higher education attainment.
- And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.
Although these proposals might sound good in theory, they aren’t. Sanders and his supporters call these proposals “investments for future generations,” but the truth of the matter is that they would create a financial burden to every taxpayer, especially the middle and lower classes.
To put it perspective, Americans who pay their taxes will be forced to pay off the debt of every student, including future lawyers, doctors, and other high-wage earners – all of whom are more than capable to take on the responsibility of paying their own way.
If Bernie Sanders wants to reduce the cost of college tuition, and lower the cost of student loans, the best way to achieve that goal is to take the federal government out of the equation entirely, so that more private loans more available for students.
Not only would that cut the costs of tuition, but it would also reduce the level of politics in of higher education.
Instead of giving a massive handout to American colleges and universities, we should instead find a way to address one the fact that they are failing at their core mission: to help students prepare for the real world. In the real world, adults are responsible for their own debt, which includes car loans, home mortgages, and so on. Nothing in this world is ever free – someone has to pay for it, and that’s a valuable lesson every college student should learn.