Before I address the topic at hand, free education, I feel several disclaimers are in order. First and foremost, I am offering AN American perspective, not THE American perspective.
While I believe my opinion on this matter certainly does reflect the views of many Americans, it would be ludicrous to say that my viewpoint is wholly representative of my country’s perspective on education.
This issue in particular is one that has been under intense debate in American society now for many years. I firmly believe that with the most minimal effort, you could easily find someone who completely disagrees with my thoughts on free education.
As for my views, I must also clarify that I am speaking in terms of a specific viewpoint. There are two traditional schools of thought when it comes to public policy making in the United States. There are those who believe policy should expand government power, and there are those who believe it should limit government power. I fall into the latter category. This will inevitably paint the way this issue is viewed in my eyes.
The final disclaimer I must make is that, unfortunately, I have never traveled beyond the border of the United States. I sadly have no anecdotal experiences that can contribute to this piece.
Now, on to the topic at hand – free education.
I must admit, as a college student, I would absolutely love to be able to go to school for the very low cost of $0 a semester. Unfortunately, that is not a possibility for me, nor, do I feel, should it be. My chief reasons for such a statement lay both in the practical and principled implications of a policy of this nature.
First, I shall address the practical reasons for my skeptical disposition toward free secondary education. The biggest and most obvious reason is the price tag. Cancelling student debt and other proposals to simply let the federal government pay off student debt would be massively expensive.
The United States is already racking up an almost impressively large deficit, more than $20 trillion. The country really does not have the budget to be adding on more long-term costs.
The easy solution to bypassing this problem is simple; do not add it to the deficit spending. That would require massive tax hikes on people who most likely do not have the financial portfolios to pay larger amounts to finance institutions they are not using.
In addition, multiple studies have shown that as state spending on education increases, economic growth decreases. This would seemingly rebuke the claim that higher education spending is an investment in your community, as research does not reenforce that claim.
The other category of reasons which make free college undesirable is, I concede, not tangible. However, these reasons may be even more crucial in fostering my beliefs on subsidized education.
As a supporter of limited government, an idea that I dare stake the claim is one that originates from and is unique to the United States, I am not under the impression that is the government’s job to provide secondary education. Subsequently, it is not the responsibility of one individual to use his or her own money to pay for somebody else’s education.
The role of the government should be to ensure that an individual’s civil liberties are protected. The list of such liberties is best summarized by the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. Education is not mentioned as a right in these amendments.
In my view, the role of government in the lives of citizens should be as limited as possible. This means that spending tax dollars on paying for people to attend a university is not something I support in principle.
Reaching to participate in secondary education is a noble goal to be sure. However, not everyone is cut out for receiving college degrees. The choice to pursue one is up to each individual, who must take into account what their skills are and how they want to use those skills in their life.
The government does not need to provide blanket free secondary education to everyone. We are all individuals, and we should all take the costs and consequences of going to college on ourselves. We should not hoist those costs on others around us.
These are just summarizations of my general beliefs on free education. They are not definitive, and they only completely reflect my own views. However, I hope that I have at the very least managed to explain why someone would be against an idea such as “free college,” which on the surface seems like something nobody should disagree with. The devil, as always, remains in the details.
This opinion article is a companion piece to a submission from our new contributor – the ENgLIST. To read an international perspective, click here.