I recently was invited to be a guest speaker for my high school’s journalism class. As I spoke with these aspiring reporters, I found that I was getting more questions about the college experience than the principles of new media. Go figure.
For many students (and parents), the anxiety of having to pay for college has surpassed the pressure of getting accepted into college.
This anxiety has manifested into numerous protests here in California as students rally against skyrocketing higher education costs that threaten to put college degrees out of reach for many middle-class young adults. In the last decade, California families have seen the cost of college nearly double as courses now run well over $10,000 a year.
The crisis of the UC system is indicative of the higher education bubble that is occurring across the nation. Several ideas have been floated to help alleviate rising costs, one being the FixUC proposal. Instead of paying for college up front, FixUC suggests students pay back their loans after they graduate by submitting a fixed percentage of their salary over a 20-year period.
But Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik proposes going one step further: why not make college free for all UC students?
At one point in time, attending a UC school was free to California residents. The idea was borne out of the principle that free tuition was an investment in the state’s economic future.
Hiltzik rightly identifies the main objection to his plan as cost – but let’s forget the fact that the State of California has a budget shortfall bigger than the size of 12 state budgets combined. Even if we could afford to offer every student a free college education, should we?
Providing a free college education will do nothing to solve the dismal situation in our K-12 classrooms. And honestly, what’s the real reason we are pushing all students into college now? It’s not because we believe that all people should go to college. We push our kids into college now to learn what they should have been taught in their primary education curriculum. Our esteemed academic bastions have become glorified extensions of high school. A college degree now is worth little more than a high school diploma.
And making college free won't solve rising dropout rates. A growing number of students -- and an alarming 28 percent of Latino students -- dropout of school before they even reach college. What good will free college do for these students?
But more dangerous than that, a free college education, bestowed upon us by the state, just makes us more dependent on the state for other things. If education is free, what else should we get for free? And can we truly value something we don’t pay for?
Having affordable and accessible institutions of higher learning is vital to ensuring the future prosperity of our nation. But relying on government freebies as the answer to all our prayers is a dangerous trap.
I am not smart unless the state gives me an education! I am not healthy unless the government gives me health care! I am not successful unless the state guarantees me a job! Gimmie! Gimme! Gimme!
By this process, we become more dependent on government as the answer for everything. We surrender control of our personal life over to a political beast.
Is that really worth it?
Alexis Garcia is a political producer and correspondent for PJTV.com. She also worked as a communications aide for the Giuliani and McCain-Palin 2008 presidential campaigns.