I had planned to post something about back to school savings, but you are going to have to wait until next week for that post. Last night and this morning I got engaged in conversations about the Democratic National Party’s plan to offer free tuition for community college and state universities. Bernie Sanders brought this up during his campaign and said that Wall Street will pay for free college. I guess in some ways it comes across like Trump’s plan to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. I don’t want to get political here because that’s not the point of my blog. I want to share finance, education, and career tips with you. As a professor at a state university, however, I feel like I need to say something about why I think this plan is a terrible idea.
- The problem with the cost of higher education is the high cost of administration. People assume professors are cashing in on the big bucks and getting all kinds of benefits. Not true. Universities have bloated administrations with an office and staff for everything under the sun while the actual educators get nothing. They don’t get raises and they watch as travel and research funding fades away more each year due to budget cuts. My university creates new administrative offices and hires a whole staff to manage them. Meanwhile, we have three administrative assistants trying to manage all the needs of the entire College of Business. It’s crazy. I can only imagine the administration that would go into this free higher ed plan. Should this ever pass, I am out.
- You have a choice about where you want to go to college. Weigh the costs with the expected income in your chosen field. Don’t go to a college that costs $60,000 a year and major in art or communication. Someone should point out that is stupid. If you still do it, you forfeit the right to complain. Four times I had to choose the college I could afford, and my parents pushed me towards choosing a major that would help me to secure a good job.
- Being in debt from student loans is nothing new. I accumulated around $100,000 in student loans on the way to my Ph.D. Medical school students rack up that much debt too. So, it makes me mad when people are crying about their student loans. You signed the note yourself. The problem is the poor cost/benefit analysis (mentioned above) PLUS the abysmal job market caused by the increased cost of hiring and a puny economy. That story does not play well with younger voters. It’s easier to say, “Boo hoo, let’s make those evil bankers pay for my college.” Who do you think paid for their college education? They are probably paying off student loans too.
- This plan will discourage choice and encourage class segregation in the same way lower income families are forced to send elementary school and high school students to public school while higher income families can afford better private school options. This goes against one of the major political issues in America today – class warfare and the disintegration of the middle class.
- It is a truth of economic theory that something only has worth when you must give something of value to attain it. If your parents gave you a car when you first got your license and paid for all of the associated expenses, you did not care for the car the same way another teen did who worked to pay for the car. The same thing is true for education. College students who are not paying for college tend to lack a sense of ownership about their education. Students who have skin in the game and are helping to pay their way through college have a much better understanding of the value of that education. They work harder and get more out of the experience because it means more to them. I don’t want to be a part of a university filled with students attending for free.
Did you have to pay for college? Did your parents push you to a certain school or degree?