With 732 candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination it was, we suppose, inevitable that some started talking about offering free college. They’re Democrats. It’s what they do, spend money on the theory that the more money they spend, the better off society will be, which History as proven to be false. Plans vary, with some calling for a free four-year college education, some a free two-year college education and there are other plans, too.
We do not favor any of these plans. Unless you are attending a service academy or taking advantage of whatever veteran’s benefit Congress chooses to provide, it is not the purpose of the federal government to provide anyone with a free college education, just like it is not the purpose of government to mandate we buy health insurance. Government’s only purpose is to ensure we can do want we want with the 24 hours each of has every day.
As usual, though, the Democrats mean well because college tuition has gotten so expensive only those families of substantive financial means can afford even a public college education without government assistance. Since 1978 college tuition has risen almost twice as much as the cost of medical care and two-thirds as much as the cost of living.
We will use Yale University, a private school in New Haven, Connecticut, as an example, because we’ve found tuition figures for them through the years are readily available. To make it easier on all of us, all figures are in 2019 dollars.
It will cost $72,000 in tuition, room, and board (known as a term bill in the industry) to attend Yale this school year, a figure that has gone up $25,000 this century, $20,000 of that this decade. For the 1939-40 school year tuition was $16,000 in today’s dollars. To put it another way, a Yale education in 1939-40 would have cost $4,000 in 1940 dollars, not the $900 it actually cost back then.
And even if this is approved, what are the limits? Can I go back to college, at age 53, for free? Are trade schools included? They should be because college isn’t for everyone.
Politicians can say this and they can say that, but if college tuition costs are going to stay in line with the cost of living the federal government must get out of the higher education racket. They must stop providing grants or loans or any other form of financial aid for going to college. Consider this: you run a business where your customers get generous government support to buy your product or service. What are you going to do? You’re going to raise prices, of course. It’s human nature and colleges are no different.
Colleges, both public and private, are entitled to the same access to the free market as any other business.
Thank you for reading,