OPINION: Leftist 'free college' proposals hurt financially responsible families
'Free college programs discourage American parents from making smart financial decisions.'
'Such proposals universally ignore the awful effects that government handouts always create ― effects that always hurt fiscally responsible American families the most.'
“What would tuition-free, debt-free higher education mean for you and your family?”
This tweet from Bernie Sanders elicited many positive responses from his followers. Some discussed the crippling effects of student loan debt upon their lives; others revealed that their families have been shut out of higher education by ballooning tuition rates.
What would tuition-free, debt-free higher education mean for you and your family?
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 23, 2021
Calls for subsidized higher education are by no means limited to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. President Biden’s recently unveiled $6 trillion budget for fiscal year 2022 asks Congress to fund two years of “free community college.”
Such proposals universally ignore the awful effects that government handouts always create ― effects that always hurt fiscally responsible American families the most.
When I was born, my parents opened a college savings account for me and immediately began saving a portion of their income. They were able to put away enough to make sizable tuition payments for my business degree from a top private university. Combined with my school’s generous need-based financial aid package and my income from summer internships, my parents’ prudence will allow me to graduate next year with no student loans.
Meanwhile, free college programs discourage American parents from making smart financial decisions. They force fiscally conscientious, tax-paying families to bear the brunt of the programs’ expenses.
Take, for example, President Biden’s recent American Families Plan, which proposes $311 billion on higher education spending. As Campus Reform higher education fellow Angela Morabito points out, free tuition would spur increases in education costs across the board as students use federal dollars to complete their payments, preventing market forces from producing high-quality education at low costs.
In stating that the cost of post-secondary education has increased 439% since 1982, Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder argues in a Heritage Foundation report that federal financial aid programs “have contributed mightily to the explosion in tuition and fees in modern times.”
“When someone else is paying the bills, people want to buy more of the good or service in question at prevailing prices than when the customer pays the bills,” continues Vedder. “This means a higher demand for higher education, and other things being equal, higher tuition costs."
Senator Ted Cruz summarized the issue perfectly in a previous interview with Campus Reform: "The party of Santa Claus is always popular giving away free stuff, and they don't take into account all the people that are getting screwed when you do that."
The policies of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and others who want to subsidize tuition ought to consider the millions of financially prudent middle-class families ― including my own ― that are being harmed by their proposals.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft