Anyone paying attention to the 2016 primary season knows that one of Bernie Sanders’ selling points and appeal to young voters is his proposal of “free college”. It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Other countries offer it, right? Sure they do. By subjecting ALL their citizens to extremely high tax rates.
However, let’s look past that. There are other extremely troubling consequences to Sander’s proposal. Keep in mind that his plan is to offer free college only at public colleges and universities. Private schools would still rely on the current systems in place. In addition, his plan is not “means tested”. Anyone can apply rich or poor. How does this square with all the income inequality talk from Sanders?
Furthermore, his plan includes a caveat that will be open to interpretation: “every American who studies hard in school can go to college.” Gee, I wonder what that means. It will mean whatever they want it to mean because they will be in control of the program, not the citizenry.
In the current job market, folks applying for jobs can tell you the consequence of not having graduated from college. It is usually the number one prerequisite needed to qualify for many high paying jobs. Many job offerings state that you need not apply if you do not possess a college degree.
With this in mind, you might think I am making the argument FOR Sanders’ plan. However, let’s say you apply for a job today. You are asked if you attended college. You state that you didn’t. In the employer’s mind, they might overlook that since the number one reason for not attending college is not being able to afford it. That will no longer suffice as an excuse after the Sanders plan is in place.
Employers will expect most applicants to have attended college after Sanders’ plan has been implemented for some time. They will inquire: “why didn’t you attend and graduate college….it’s free”? Employers will view an applicant that has not attended college as more of a negative than ever before. If you think not having attended college has an effect on your job prospects now, wait until Sanders’ plan is in effect.
In addition, since it will be available to anyone, they will put more value on anyone who attended Graduate School. The Master’s Degree and the BA from a private college will be the degrees they will require for attractive, sought after positions. Folks with a public college degree will be a dime a dozen and looked upon like a high school diploma is considered now.
How will Sanders’ plan affect students in minority precincts with historically low college attendance? Will the caveat “every American who studies hard in school can go to college” be “adjusted?” How will that affect graduation rates?
Will free college motivate students who were considering vocational or technical schools that aren’t “free” to segue to a public college degree, which is? How will that affect the demand fo r technical school graduates in those industries and segments of our economy that depend on them?
In Bernie’s world, a graduate with a major in “Gender Studies” somehow has better job prospects than a trained pipefitter in an economy that needs pipefitters and is willing to pay them middle class wages right out of school.
What about the stigma of not attending college? If you think it is bad now, wait until society expects you to, after all it is free, what are you, too stupid or lazy? What if you do not meet the “subject to Bernie Sanders'”definition of who “studies hard in school”? I can see an entirely new second-class status created with those folks.
Where in the plan does it spell out the costs and difficulties of implementing this plan if it does become law? The majority (70%) of Americans do not have a college degree. What if mass numbers of those decide to take Bernie Sanders up on his offer? How do we supply this demand? How many hundreds of colleges will have to be built? Where will all the professors and the other elements of the workforce that will be needed come from?
Lastly, tuition at public colleges is considered by students as being “too high”. Why? Because the majority of students currently have to pay tuition. When it becomes free, costs will be ignored. No one will care anymore, certainly not the students, and costs will rise dramatically, sticking it to the taxpayers paying to fund this program.
NOTHING is “free”. Sanders’ plan will cause havoc in the job market, various industries, and our economy.