Monday, February 20, 2012

Why Can't Education Be Free? Because It Isn't.

There’s a lot of Tumblr-noise going on today about the cost of education and whether or not it should be free. I’m not going to argue that the cost of higher education shouldn’t be lower, I think it is growing at an unsustainable rate driven by a variety of forces, but it should be pretty obvious to anyone with basic financial skills why higher education can’t, and in the US system shouldn’t, be free. 
To state the obvious (channeling a little tautology here): Things that cost money cost money. Almost nothing in life, other than perhaps air, is free to provide and as such it’s illogical to say it should be free to use. Things have to be paid for by someone, and the capitalist/US system has long said that people that enjoy the benefits of something should pay to enjoy those benefits. That’s the inherent fairness of capitalism and also its weakness from the socialist/communist viewpoints.
Education is expensive to provide, and getting more expensive. There are ways those costs could be limited and even come down, but people suggesting education should be free are suggesting the government, the same entity already running trillion dollar plus deficits, can somehow take over higher education and provide it at no additional cost to the taxpayers. If that were to happen, access will have to be more limited (the taxpayers/government aren’t going to be as willing to let people go to college just because they want to or study things that have no economic benefit to the society), options will have to be more homogeneous (after all, where’s the fairness in sending student X to a fancy liberal arts school and student Y to a second tier public school if their families paid similar taxes into the system?), and the result of the first two requirements will mean less campuses and fewer students overall. For examples of how “free”, or greatly reduced cost, systems work a look at Germany’s education system would be very enlightening: . Although Germany’s system seems to works well for them and in several ways is the direction the US is silently heading in (the formation of career academies, etc. to replace traditional high schools is an example of this), the access to higher education is much more limited there than it is here largely because the German system demands higher standards overall to get into colleges and their whole education system is far more career focused. The system in the US would have to be totally and completely overhauled for anything like that to work here, and whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s very unlikely and I don’t believe for a second people would be willing to take on a substantial tax increase to support a government run system that may turn them away. 
Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, education as a whole is a business. It provides people with the knowledge and skills not to improve their overall level of enlightenment, but to make more money and contribute more productivity to society. As such, it is an investment on behalf of whoever (whether that be the student or the government) is paying for the education with the understanding that it will result in increased income/productivity from the student in the long run. The government and the states have decided that completion of a high school education is so valuable to the country and the states that it is worth having society pay for through taxes. It has decided that higher education, particularly to low-income students or students studying certain fields, is worth subsidizing. What it has not decided is that the current system, where anyone can go and study whatever they want, is worthy of paying for through taxes all together, and I don’t see why they should. 
As always, your input, comments, etc. are welcome.
Original posts:
This is a naive notion. Granted, I don’t like America’s ubiquitous military presence in the world. We spend far too much money on it and our overreach tends to bite us in the ass in the absolute worst ways (one need look no further than September 11, 2001). However, yes, it is very naive to think that we
1) Shouldn’t drop bombs on nations who are absolute aggressors and dangers to the public at large
2) That education should be free. 
Education shouldn’t be free, absolutely not. Not now, not ever, never ever ever should education be free. Never.
This is literally mind boggling: 
For the 2009–10 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions.
Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation.
In 2012, student debt because of loans will reach $1 Trillion, surpassing credit card debt as the largest group of debt. Private lenders (like Sallie Mae which holds the most loans, five times more than the second largest lender, Wells Fargo) are unregulated in their practices, resulting in things like charging fees to prove you’re unemployed and having abhorrent interest rates, even as high as 10% and beyond. 
The Student Labor Action Project and United States Student Association are beginning a campaign to help alleviate this one symptom in our failed education system. It is not the end-all of the education crisis, but it is a start, and an urgent one since student debt very well might be the next bubble to burst (one can’t discharge their student debt when declaring bankruptcy) 
Sign the petition here
Fight for not only no debt for students, but for a future with free education for all!
Define aggressive, since we are often the ones to shoot first, or our previous policies of imperialism make it so if we were in their situation, we’d probably want to attack us too. 
And I don’t see why it shouldn’t be free. It is not a business, it is an institution that betters the lives of anyone willing to put in the effort to study and put in the time to gain knowledge to make them a better person and so they can live a better life, it is not so companies can exploit people wanting to make their lives better.
God, giantsteps360 is really taking shit today.
With good reason.
Why shouldn’t education be free? Just answer that. Tell me your opinion. Please. I’m genuinely curious to know.
Source: desmonsters

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