Bernie Sanders has made a lot out of proposing to make college not only cheaper, but free. Many are realizing this would cost way too much money, and money that's not there. The question remains, is free college actually possible? It may be surprising to learn, but the answer is yes!
How could this be possible? We will look at a state like California and do some needed adjustments to who and where this college education would actually be, "free."
First, California taxpayers already send billions, between 4 and 6 billion to be exact, to colleges. That's a big chunk of cash right there. Then toss in the federal loan program. It takes billions to implement. There is money out there that is being spent on college students.
When you say it is impossible, remember this: We full fund and make "free," thirteen years of public school education. Education is free, for the most part, for kindergarten to 12th grade. So it would not seem to be a stretch to add four more years. But there would be a catch.
First off, it seems to be cheaper to fund four years of high school than four years of college. At least that what colleges tell us. So colleges would have to do a whole lot of cost cutting to make it cheaper. But it would be doable. And you could not fund everyone who wants to go to college. That means there would need to be a cutoff point.
That last point should not be a problem. Only 40% of those that start college finish in four years. We actually should start to NOT encourage all students to go to college. It's just not worth it, or they do not have it in them. That needs to stop now.
Here are the steps we would need to take to make college free.
- Set up bare-bones colleges. Only academics, nothing else. The cost of running the college needs to be pared down. Students must choose this type of college to be funded fully.
- Only fully fund students who finish in the top 20% of their high school class. We need to start betting on potential winners. If others want to go, they will need to pay.
- Stop telling all students they must go to college.
- Get businesses who need college graduates to start paying some of the costs.
- If students drop out or don't graduate with a degree, they will be expected to pay back the cost.
Obviously this would not be for everyone. The options available now would still be there. We also must insist that all colleges start thinking about using their endowments and cutting the costs of administration and salaries. If students start going to "free" colleges, the big names will need to lower the cost of their tuition.
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