How much of a college education should be free?

The following should be free for the first undergrad degree:

The following should be free for postgrad or additional undergrad degrees:

Once you’ve earned your first degree, with no ensuing debt, you ought to be self-sufficient. But as long as you can feed and house yourself, you should have access to endless free continuing education.

I am fine with a society that’s based on excellence through competition. But the competition should be about who can build the proverbial bettter mousetrap, not who can best provide their family with essentials like education, food, and housing.

Experiential is HARD at scale. Can you find professional musicians, artists and actors willing to have a kid shadow them, every year a new kid? - that’s a lot of time. Healthcare professionals have patient confidentiality to worry about, getting student nurses through is hard enough without worrying about some seventeen year old. Its time consuming and burdensome for the professional, and its really time consuming to find people willing to do this sort of thing. And it honestly turns into “take your kid to work day,” except its “take someone else’s kid to work day.” My kid’s college has this going on with alumni - and they have FAR more students who want a "mentor’ than mentors who have the time to dedicate to the program.

The financial reality check should definitely be part of all paths - whether that is “you are about to take out student loans to get a degree in Theatre from an expensive private school…this is what that looks like financially” or “you are about to graduate with a high school degree and plan to drive Uber…this is what that looks like financially” And yes, continuing it post high school.

Yes, I concur, to some extent. Community colleges should be free. You can learn a trade, get an accreditation, clear out all those undergrad course or just find out of college is right for you (and it turns out quite a few students find out it isn’t).

There is no reason why the taxpayers needs to pay sometimes as much as ten times as much to pay for 2 years at a 4 years college.

Sorry, my taxes are not gonna go for some weird bible thumper college.

Yes, which is why I say community college should be free (and it is almost free in CA)- learn auto mechanics or many other paraprofessional trades.

I don’t think we are talking loans here. Direct payments to the college.

I agree completely with your entire post. Well said.

The worst of those aren’t accredited. And if there are some that are that bad but are still accredited, then the solution is that we need to tighten up the accredition standards.

Oh, and more high school guidance on career paths is, in principle, a good idea… but guidance counselors are already the most overworked people in schools (and I say that as a teacher). To make that a reality, we’d need a heck of a lot more guidance counselors. Any plan on where to get them?

Sounds like the mirror image of “sorry, my taxes are not gonna go for some woke commie hotbed of liberalism where students are taught to hate America.”

The truly weird bible thumper colleges tend not to be accredited.

The schools would also have to have the balls to tell parents when their precious darling is too stupid to make it through college, and have they thought about groundskeeping as a career? Case in point: 20 years ago my district was one of the top districts in SoCal in VocEd. We had outstanding programs. Then the Board got the bug that the only thing that mattered was the percentage of students we sent on to college. So they abolished all the VocEd classes, turned what was left over to county ROP, and put every single student onto a “college bound or die” path. You can guess how well that has worked. For the last 20 years we have been cranking out students that will flunk out of college, bitter and disillusioned, life-long Republicans mad at everybody and in serious debt to boot. Sometimes I think that was the plan all along…

Don’t our property taxes already pay for free K-12? If the parents want to send their kids to private school , for the most part, pay for it themselves. Anything after High school,in my opinion, shouldn’t be on the taxpayer’s dime.

I really think that the degree is less important than the mindset. I have an English degree, the classic “useless” degree. But I’ve supported myself just fine since the day I graduated, because I wanted to be a teacher. I had a plan with the degree: I would teach. I know other people who have “good” degrees, like in business, but have never been able to get any value out of it because they treated college and their career like high school: show up, do what you are assigned, as long as you don’t utterly fail to meet expectations, it’s fine. So they got a degree, but had no particular knowledge or understanding of their field, because all they did was learn exactly what was on the test.

I think what kids need is a “plan” mindset. They need to know that they need a plan, that they should have one. They need a sense of agency, of efficacy. Once you get over that hump, the information is really out there. It’s all over the place. But so many kids just ignore it. It washes over them like empty noise. because it doesn’t feel relevant to them, it’s for grownups. I have helped literally hundreds of kids through this process, and far and away this mindset is the biggest problem. It’s May, they are seniors, and they STILL don’t really understand that next fall will be different, that they won’t be here, and that they are the grownups now.

Don’t you have to be accepted by a college in the first place, whether or not it be free of fees? Unless they have solved the problem of there not being enough places for everyone who wants to go.

They would also need to know enough to give good guidance. Like, that’s a really hard question. What training does it take to give 150 seniors a year good advice on their specific situation, taking into account their own temperament and resources? It doesn’t exist.

Agreed that the degree is less important than the mindset (my first degree was Art History). “Getting to the destination is less important than having a direction in mind - and having information on the path ahead.” I have no problem with very liberal arts focused majors (see first degree, husband with a degree in Anthropology, and youngest getting a degree in History).

Students also need to understand that their plans will change. There are very few professions that require or will even provide a straight line path from high school to retirement. I’m in my fifties, I got out of college, and I’ve been paid to be a secretary, a bookkeeper, a marketing specialist a systems engineer, a project manager, a people manager, an accountant, an auditor, an actress (?! really, I made money doing that!? Not much, but I did), a vendor relations manager, a process improvement specialist and now I’m semi retired running a small business. None related to that original liberal arts degree (some of it related to the subsequent practical accounting degree).

Right. It’s not even about a plan. It’s really about understanding that you need to talk every possible opportunity to increase your skills, and have faith that some of those skills will pay off in the long run. My parents talked about their careers. I was really raised with the idea that one should “resume build” in a deliberate and conscious way. Lots and lots of kids aren’t. A job is something that happens to you, and then you just try to avoid losing it.

I know this is one of the primary commandments in the church of American conservatism, but I’m in a part of Europe where health care and higher education are both essentially free (beyond a miniscule token fee which is beyond no one’s means), and this thing that conservatives regard as a matter of scriptural faith is simply not true.

Where you live in Europe, are you referring to an institution that’s equivalent to a US Junior college? According to Academic Ranking of World Universities the US has the majority of the top-ten ranked Universities. Top-ranked Universities will never be free.

Don’t get me started on the costs of college. Too late.

When I started out at any Ivy (Penn) the regular tuition was $700/year. Inflation adjusted, that’s nearly $7000, while Penn’s tuition today is pushing $60,000, actually between 8 and 9 times as large. And Penn is theoretically non-profit. So where does it all go? A bloated administration with the president probably getting a couple million cannot explain it all. Climbing walls in the dorms, better meals in the dining rooms, maybe slightly higher faculty salaries growing the endowment (non-profit. really?) still cannot explain a multiplier of over 8.

And textbooks. The author doesn’t set the price; the publishers do. And they insist on a new edition every year to kill the second-hand market. A friend of mine tried to write a discrete math text that was different from all the ones on the market. The publisher sent it to 20 or so reviewers and the upshot is that they wanted it to be a clone of the existing books. He refused and it was never published. A colleague of mine wrote a text for his course. He got it typed by the department and paid to have copies made at the University printing press and gave them away to his students. When he retired and I took over the course, I took it to a local copy shop and they printed on demand for the students for under $15 a copy.

I guess my point is that, while I wouldn’t mind these things being free, it is outrageous way costs have escalated and made these discussions necessary. Incidentally, I no more had $700, then wings to fly. I got a full-time job in a lab at Penn and was a part-time student for three years. Then I got a partial scholarship and a part loan. All the time living at home. I recall pay $3.50 for a second-hand calculus book. None of this is possible nowadays.

Does “other” include beer?

Of course you’re correct, and I am not saying everyone should go to college. Heck, I went one year, dropped out, then went back 3 years later because I wasn’t ready. To be fair, I should have said post-high school education, to include college, trade school, or other job training program.

Philosophically, I believe that a good-quality college education, like good-quality health care, should be available and affordable to everyone who needs it—“needs” being here defined loosely as “would be significantly better off with than without it.” But it seems reasonable that at least some of the cost should be borne directly by those who receive it.

Practically, I don’t know what is the best way to achieve this, or whether making it free would be better at ensuring its quality and availability than the present system or other alternatives. If the decision were up to me, I would have to do a lot of research before making it.