There are big problems that must be fixed in paying for college. Too many young Americans leave college with huge debts they can hardly repay. Too many youth from lower income families never go to college because they assume they cannot afford it. Too many college students drop out before finishing because of huge costs.
So the proposal (and slogan), “Free College for All” sounds attractive. And several Democratic presidential candidates have embraced it.
But let's be clear what the problem is. It is that youth from poorer families cannot afford college. That is wrong, unjust, and needs to be fixed.
But young people from richer families do not need government subsidies. Young people whose parents make $300,000 or $1 million plus a year don't need government subsidies! Furthermore a higher percentage of youth from richer families go to college than youth from poor families. So why should our taxes be used to give a free ride for kids from wealthy families?
“Free College for All” will add to the federal deficit/debt—ask proponents how they intend to pay for it. And it will provide an unnecessary government subsidy for rich kids. So NO! to “Free College for All.”
But there are big problems that need to be fixed. We need some program to reduce the college debts of graduates— especially those whose current earnings are less than the national median wage ( $44,564 per year in 2017 for those working 40 hours per week).
Even more important, justice demands that we make college affordable for all Americans. That means much more help for college students from lower income families.
I favor a full scholarship( Pell grants or whatever) equal to the full tuition costs at the public state university for everyone from a family with an annual income of $75,000 per year ( the median annual family income in 2018 was $71,900 ). And I favor a declining scholarship grant for children from families with annual incomes of from $75,000 up to at least $150,000. Families with income above that can afford to pay their children's college expenses.
One more problem with current proposals for “Free College for All”. New York state has decided to give free tuition at state universities for everyone from the state. Problem: that discriminates against private colleges and universities. It will certainly devastate and perhaps destroy Christian colleges and universities where students cannot receive the tuition subsidy. Government tuition subsidies should be available at any college or university in the state that the student chooses to attend. If a family wants the benefits of a religious college, then they should be willing to pay some extra. But surely our American values of pluralism and religious freedom for all mean that government should not discriminate against religious colleges and universities. As you push our state and federal governments to grant much greater help for tuition for less wealthy Americans, be sure to demand that they not favor secular public universities over private Christian universities.
So yes, we should substantially expand government grants so lower income youth can afford college. But “Free College for All” is not the way!
I leave for vacation this Friday so this will be my last blog for several weeks. I'll be in touch when I get back.
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