K-12 education is "free" (in the sense that you do not directly have to pay for it to attend but rather taxpayers have to give money to the government which in turn redistributes the funds to school districts all over the US).
The question has become, if K-12 is provided as a public service, why is college not also provided to students at no cost? Surely this would provide more young people with the opportunity to attend university and earn their Bachelors degree. It would even improve our economy because we have more skilled workers!
The people who make these arguments tend to forget why college education has becomes so unaffordable in the first place. It is the government providing student loans to nearly anyone who applies that has driven up the cost of higher education. Because funding is simple to get and it does not have to be paid back until the student is out of school, more and more students began to take out loans. Universities realized that even if they increased tuition, students and parents would continue to take out loans to pay for this commodity. This has driven up tuition rates over time. And even though it is the government that has screwed things up, people are looking to the government to fix the problem.
Well if the government paid for it, the prices would go down.
This is one response to my reasoning above. However, it's simply not what will happen if the past reflects the future. We spend more money per K-12 student than ever before (about $11,000/kid per year). New York spends as much as $20,000 per student per year! And yet, we still can't seem to educate the nation's children.
If the government also took over paying for college tuition, the price would likely continue to rise and taxpayers would be left fitting the bill. And because students and parents now have zero monetary investment (just time), student motivation would likely decline. The value that we place on the college degree would decline and so a new signaling method would be necessary anyway.
Thankfully, the market is biting back. As I wrote in yesterday's post, there are still ways to graduate debt free. More and more students are seeing less value in paying tens of thousands for a degree that does not guarantee them a job or even the skills they need in the real world.
Before the government has a chance to take over college tuition costs, I have a feeling that the bubble will burst and the system will collapse anyway. More people are waking up to the reality: college is a huge expense with no promises. Having the government cover the cost will just make this issue worse.