Is Free College As Good As It Sounds?
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Is Free College As Good As It Sounds?

– For a lot of us, a
big chunk of our lives are spent thinking about and
working towards one thing, a college degree. And why not? According to one recent
study, in 2015 college grads earned 56% more than high school grads. It was the largest gap the
study found since 1973. Plus, most companies these days aren’t satisfied with just
a high school diploma. I mean, have you looked at ads for entry-level jobs recently? Seems like everyone wants
two years of experience and a bachelors degree, at a minimum. The problem is, college
costs are insane these days. To pay for it, students are
taking on more and more debt. It’s getting to the point where unless your last name
is Bezos or Zuckerberg a college education kind
of feels like a pipe dream. One answer is free college. It was a big part of Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. – We should have free tuition at public colleges and universities. That should be a right of all Americans regardless of the income
of their families. – And tuition free community college is now listed in the official platform of the Democratic party. Even some deeply red Republican
states like the idea. Since 2014, Tennessee has been offering two years of tuition-free
community college to all high school graduates,
regardless of income. But free college really isn’t free. That money has to come from somewhere. And while it sounds
great for poor students, are we really cool with rich
students not paying anything? Is free college really
as good as it sounds? Take a look at these price tags. The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school
year was about $10,000 at public colleges and
$35,000 at private colleges. That’s just one year of college. I know people who don’t
make that in a year. But it wasn’t always like that. In 1987, in today’s dollars, a year at a public college
cost around $3,200, and at a private college
it was around $15,000. That means today, only 30 years later, students are paying 129%
more at private colleges and 213% more at public colleges. Costs continue to rise for
a bunch of reasons including increased demand, more
available financial aid and a lack of state funding. As a result, colleges
keep raising their prices. And paying for it all is easy. Students come up with
that money, no problem. And if you can’t, there’s
something wrong with you. Now obviously that sounds ridiculous. Most students have to take out loans. It’s become the largest form of personal debt in the country. Larger than credit card
debt and car loans. Students who borrow, end up graduating with an average of
$34,000 in student loans. That’s up from $20,000 just 10 years ago. Graduating with all that debt means you’re less likely to buy a house or a car and you’re more likely to live
at home with your parents, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. No judgment, stack your bread. Free college is one way
to combat student debt. Now, when lawmakers say free college, what they usually mean is tuition-free. Other costs like living in a dorm or paying rent or paying for
a meal plan aren’t included. States like California,
Oregon and Tennessee all offer some version of free college. In 2017, San Francisco
became the first city to offer all of it’s
residents free tuition at it’s community college. And outside of the US, countries like Germany, Denmark,
Finland, Norway and Sweden offer free college at all of
their public universities. Supporters of free
college often point to our public school system from
kindergarten to twelfth grade. It’s free for every student,
regardless of their income. This access to learning,
they say, helps the economy, strengthens our Democracy and is critical to the health and success
of future generations. So, why not extend that
to college as well? And one of the biggest
benefits of offering free college education, is
that it encourages people to apply to college who didn’t think they could afford it before. This could g a long way in
addressing income inequality. The case against free college
comes from a variety of people reminding us all that free
college actually costs money. To begin with, raising
property or income taxes for any reason is always
a tough sell politically. Conservatives often argue that
if taxes are raised too high residents could move to other
states where taxes are lower. Then there are the costs
that come with free tuition. The City College of San Francisco saw a huge spike in enrollment after it began it’s free tuition program. Now, the college is asking the city to cover the costs like
hiring more professors and providing student services. There’s also the argument
that offering free tuition to everyone could just be a waste of money since not everyone wants
to get a college degree. There’s research showing
that graduation rates fall, the less students pay. In fact, 47% of community
college enrollees dropout of school and
that number might increase if it becomes free for everyone. So, free tuition might raise
the already high dropout rates. Others argue that if the
point of free college is to help students who can’t afford it, why not increase grant money that goes to low-income students instead? That way we’re not subsidizing the cost of college for students
from high-income families that might have no problem paying. After all, the true cost of college is more than just tuition and fees. You’ve got rent, you’ve got
food, there’s transportation. And man, don’t even get
me started on books. I got financial aid, so
I’m not gonna tell y’all how much I paid for
college, but one semester one book cost half of my tuition, half. So, what do you think? Is free college a good idea? If so, who should pay for it? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’re a middle
or a high school teacher you can get your students
talking about this topic on KQED Learn, somewhere
in this general area. And if you’re a student, you can teach your teacher something by showing them this video on KQED Learn. And if you’re neither of those, you still probably are a music fan, so you should definitely
check out Sound Field, the newest show from PBS Digital Studios. Sound Field breaks down our favorite songs and artists from all genres, from Bach to Beyonce. So go subscribe to Sound Field, the link is in the description below.

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90 thoughts on “Is Free College As Good As It Sounds?

  1. What do you think: is the cost of free college worth it? Watch the video to understand why that's not an oxymoron.

  2. I'm not american, so I don't know exactly how it works, but couldn't it be that some of that dropout rate is because of the high costs and thus it would drop or at least stay unchanged with free college?

  3. I think that should be up to the states' governments rather than the federal government. I fear that if donr wrong, free tuition may result in certain colleges being underfunded which would both hurt the students and professors. That's my view on it

  4. Money is a representation of a few different things, but in this instance it is time and resources. If you can find a way to get the resources (like books or at least the information in them) for a reduced cost or free then you've gotten half the battle won. The problem with that is publishers don't want to see a loss in revenue, which is why you'd have to divorce education from publishing. Information should be available to the public for education proposes, and if you do that you'd be golden.

    Time is the other factor, mainly the teacher's time. You have to find a way to accommodate them in a way that is meaningful and right now that's cash. Though another option is to cut out teachers completely and just program all of the classes. Aside from creative writing or art, I don't see much of a necessity for teachers needing to be there.

    The last problematic thing is sports. It has nothing to do with education, but hell if my local college didn't build a new gym (when they already have two) and renovate the football stadium with the tuition people are paying, plus they got subsidies from the state. The whole time they are cutting degree programs to reduce costs and building dorms instead of parking lots. Our college was primarily a commuter centric set-up, but instead of focusing on that strength they dismantled it.

  5. In Latvia we have subsidized university and college but for limited amount of people. If you want free higher education you have to get in a free budget-paid spot. You get there by being the "best" out of all contestants. How many people can get "free" education depends on study program, the rest just pay or wait until someone drops out. If their grades are high enough, they can get the free spot, if someone from there droped out. That system only affects public schools

  6. Ok but doesn't most of the insanely high tuition comes after community college? CCs are already the "cheaper option" for the first 2 years. 1 quarter at my university costed more than all my tuition from community college combined

  7. I'm so pissed that right after I finish my degree they're going to enact free college and I'm going to be one of the last people left with massive debt.

  8. I don't really like the idea of free college, but I do like the idea of increasing grant funding for college. I was able to get my 4-year college degree entirely funded by grants and scholarships, but that was because I commuted to college (I didn't live on campus, no dorm costs for me). Tennessee does free-college in about the only way I would be ok with. I don't like the idea of higher taxes that comes with free-college ideas. So that's why I don't like the idea of free college.

  9. In my country, we take free college for granted. I never realized how much of a big blessing this is until I saw how it is in other nations.
    In my opinion, free college is a human right, and any tax increase is a crucial investment in the future.


  11. I'll be honest, I stopped buying textbooks a few semesters ago. I either share one or don't buy one. I gave up after for 3 different classes, I bought a book and it wasn't used once. If a textbook is required I go to the campus library to rent it for a few min, take pictures of the pages I need and boom, save a few grand.

  12. College tuition should be free. My loans are up to 250,000 with this I don't have a Phd. The loans include interest, as it accrues regardless. I went to both private and public institutions. My loan provider sent me a statement which indicated if I paid 1200 per month, my loans would be paid off by 2032.
    In 2032, I'll be 67 years old. Damn! Now I pay for both my kids tuition. I don't want them to get loans. It's a shitty deal. I say free tuition. I don't mind paying taxes for tuition free schools as long as it's benefiting those in need.

  13. 4:24 Maybe because the lower the tuition is, the more students can enroll and with a higher number of students every other number increases? Tuition-free education is a non-issue. If every student has the option at least in theory to go to college, a lot more graduates even if a big portion of them drops out. It works well in Europe. Also today with how our lives are centered around the internet, most of the educational system could shift, become virtual. The wast majority of what the average student attends in college could be replaced by virtual classes.

  14. imo across the board free post secondary education is hugely wasteful. Targeted help, or even free tution on the other hand is good.
    A cousin of mine had half her student loan forgiven for working as a registered nurse (something we need more of) in a needed area for several years. Plus, since she took a course where jobs would be available with her degree after she got out of school, the government will get that money back since she pays higher taxes on her higher income.

    I've met a LOT of people who went to post secondary, got a degree, and never used it for anything productive. I'm all for using tax dollars to cover tuition in cases where the person will actually get a higher paying job once they get out, or for jobs that we need more of, but i'm against just paying all tuition with no catch's.

  15. Well, yes nothing is free. Money to pay for college comes from taxes, and that doesn't means rich people get education for free; rich people are supposed to pay more taxes than poor people. That's unless somebody like Trump gets to be president and gives rich people a large tax cut. Sure, poor people also get a tax cut but in their case it is not meanigful, just enough to get votes from, you guess it, uneducated people. In some countries, really poor people can also get a college education, because in adition to not having to pay tuition they can get a scholarship to pay for books, food and transportation; they just have to study hard and get good grades to get a said scholarship.

  16. When do dropouts actually drop out?
    Their cost is lower if they quit early. As would probably be the case with free tuition.

    BTW, I strongly believe that knowledge should be free. Only good things come from better education for everyone. Who the hell could be against that?
    For the same reason, I think the price of scientific journals is a shame to the whole academic world. But that's another topic.

  17. We have a government loan program in Australia that essentially gives you a way to go to university and pay off the loan once you reach a certain threshold of income (paid pre-tax direct from your wages). It isn't perfect, but it can help most attend university.

    But one thing that doesn't get raised is the idea of tertiary training and education being "free" or accessible. Trades and other tertiary skill courses still require $$. They should be in this conversation too.

  18. I am not American, but I think that the costs of the free tuition would be covered by the taxes that the educated graduated students will pay. I mean you showed a study which says that people with a college degree earn in average 53% more than those without a degree. Another source would be the military budget. USA spent 600 billion USD in 2015. Taking a couple of billions of this tremendous budget is also an option. On the other side, free tuition is not that great. Here in Austria where I live, it's almost impossible to do a research in basic science since the industry is the one who is funding the research. Most of times, we cannot even chose our Master's and Ph.D's projects!!! We get a list with very limited options that we can chose from. That's the reason why most of us try to go to north America.

  19. In my country (Brazil), we have both types.
    Free colleges tend to be really better, and they are funded by taxes.
    The best brazilian college is a public college called USP (University of São Paulo).
    No one ever questioned public colleges not being funded by government taxes, and the few politicians that do talk about "charging for free education" aren't even taken seriously.

  20. Or you could just do what we Australians do and a have an economically sustainable system, where anyone can afford to go to university (well, almost everyone) and we don't have to raise taxes.

  21. From the perspective of a Norwegian; No it is not free. Tax payers have to pick up the bill. But like everything else in society, it is an investment. We as tax payers invest in infrastructure for all because it make it easier to get around, helps businesses etc. We(here in Norway) invest in public healthcare, because have a lot of sick people around lowers productivity on every level. We invest in students because they are the future. They are the ones who are going to innovate, produce things and build businesses in the future, and in turn be able to pay more taxes. And the more people you get to where they should be in life and be the most they can be the better for the state(taxes), the better for businesses(Innovation and competence) and better for society as a whole. It does not matter if the drop out rate increases with X% points if the number of students who complete and go on to do more productive work then they would else have done increases.

  22. I'm not sure about making all college degrees free; there are too many useless ones, i.e., the ones that don't help you get a solid career. But I think some of the STEM degrees should be free, and probably others. And the students who drop out by choice – those who partied too much, for example – could be held responsible for paying for the classes they took. In other words, students would be encouraged to finish and graduate, lest they be hit with tuition costs.

    But maybe the question we should be asking is how important is college going to be in the next few decades? If trends continue in automation advances and workers are increasingly replaced, the (human) workforce will dwindle, and the population of income-less people will steadily expand.

  23. Many powerful politicians in the US do not want the common folk to be educated. That is one of the main reasons why college is not better integrated into US society as a public good.


  25. So what is broken with the K-12 public education that an out-of-date research supporting the advantage of a college degree over a high school diploma encourages everyone to pursue a path originally intended for the higher echelon of society which some are wanting to make free to the same extent or margin as K-12 public education is free now?

  26. Pipe dream? No. Go to your local state college, live at home for a few more years and work a part-time job. I paid off all my student loans and went back for my masters. You need to know where to go and how to do it.

  27. Of course leftist want free college for everyone…It's their indoctrination camps….If colleges were teaching conservative ideas leftest would be trying to close them down.

  28. "Who should pay for it?" The rich of course. Just the profits of US corporations in 2017 was enough to feed the world seven times over. "Where's the money coming from," is always a vacuous question.

  29. Education in Canada is very expressive it's $7000 in tuition and with books included it's $9000 it's unacceptable.

  30. No one is twisting your arm to sign on that dotted line. So NO it should NOT be free. It was YOUR choice to take a 50-70k loan for gender study's a "skill" that has ZERO benefit to the job market. It was YOUR choice you took 50-70k loan for a socialism course. A skill that once again, has ZERO benefit to the job market. So if you don't want to be crushed by ridiculous student loan debt for the rest of your life, Start by taking classes that will actually give you a meaningful job.

  31. the money being wasted in wars (trillions by now and counting), money politicians are happy to give to the military complex… i think making corporations paid a fair share of their taxes (like amazon that didn't paid taxes but they are using our taxes for their infrastructure projects in some states and getting free benefits while making billions and their employees asking for government help) using those taxes for free education, not just any education but careers that will bring benefit to the country and are needed, that way all those people getting free education one day will pay taxes and improve the country/society/world…

  32. Regarding the proposal, first raised recently by a self-proclaimed socialist (B. Sanders), this is the oldest ploy in the book, offer to throw money at people which you haven't even stolen yet and hope they vote for you. For those American politicians that are pushing it this is an admission of desperation.

  33. just think… if college was free, we could just go there forever and live in the dorms for free and get fed for the rest of our lives all while learning! we'd never have to work a day in our lives! why hasn't anyone thought of this before?

  34. Well it does suck paying for college, text book and everything else that comes with it, but its an investment, well atleast here in cali one can apply for financial aid, grants of all sorts, BOG waiver, but above all scholarships would be the go to thing.

  35. I also think many careers are WAY over paid, some like NBA, NFL, movie stars, singers etc, I calculated a contract of a NBA star and realized that he was making 96,000 a day!!! For what? Playing basketball? something that's fun to do. Thats not even close to some other higher paid athletes. 96,000 A DAY then you have people like most of us that bust our ass and work way harder for 40,000 A YEAR something is really wrong but its to late now to change.

  36. Americans are so dumb. The point of this debate is literally "do you believe in things that exist" (in Europe). And many are dumb enough to say "no, it's impossible".

    PS: non-tuition fees(food…):here in France poor students also receive a flat and money from the state covering those. For books: it's all online, no need to buy any. And our taxes are not higher than in USA for everybody, but only for super rich people (so rich students aren't "not paying anything", basically it's their family who pays for everybody). And the state don't pay for drop out students, since they stop registering.

  37. college is a scam
    money goes to prof
    student gets debt.
    college doesn't need those budgets to run a room where you study.

  38. It's a very bad idea, and the reason isn't anything that conservatives usually talk about. The real problem is that education is set to change dramatically around the world thanks largely to advancements in technology and individualized, adaptive learning solutions. For hundreds of years education has taken the form of a teacher standing in front of a class, trying to bring every student along with the same generalized material. It's impersonal, does not meet students where they're at, and leaves many behind while holding others back. But this is changing today. We have made great strides in creating solutions that adapt themselves to the student, and we're only at the very beginning of this innovation. If we double down on university educations as our primary means of skill acquisition by offering free college, we will greatly slow our transition away from an approach that has already been scheduled for replacement. We will give money to teachers and university administrators and draw money away from innovators. And the biggest problem is that other countries won't make the same mistake. In a global economy, our education system has to be globally competitive. If we fail to allow innovation to completely reinvent education and instead boost up yesterday's outdated approach, we will endanger our future.

  39. Can you cover free education and egalitarianism? It's a means to an egalitarian workers utopia and total k through college Leftist indoctrination. Also, If everyone is a degreed professional, then how are we supposed to pick the best person for the job, not to mention discrimination lawsuits? On the consumer end, how do you pick the best dentist, tax specialist ect… when they"re all hiding behind their free credentials. On the other hand setting, higher standards for college courses will cull top notchers, a gain for all society. Egalitarianism is not sustainable and creates REAL marginalization. It means architects, lawyers and Dr. living in cars and cheap housing just like anyone else.

  40. In Europe, I paid my college 300 euros (250 dollars) a year and I thought it was expensive… University is usually around 1,000 dollars a year.

  41. if all colleges are free, and more and more people start graduating with degrees. what do you think is going to happen to the job market? its going to be overloaded, overloaded to the point where you have thousands of applicants applying for one position. There must be a balance in the work force.

  42. You need to set up a few things to prevent abuse and waisting this resource and use of tax money. Restructure the degree program to achieve something. Encourage degree programs for fields of study our future workforce will require. Libertarians bitch until the tax money is used to pay for there free social support programs is all good. Free College does not help the early retired and disability collectors who are against it. Also, trade and technical schools should be considered as an option as well. The increasing grant money will only give the University's a chance to raise the rates again. Invest in Community Colleges. The Main University is beyond hope and lost to greed not educating and developing the skills needs for the future workforce. Retooled workforce and improved workers lead to better-paid workers and more stable future tax base. If we can pay for lazy fat asses to fit on a couch and do nothing. We can invest in our own workforce and build a better future for all.

  43. Other people commented the same thing, but it's worth noting: nothing is free. Free tuition – or free healthcare, for that matter – is always paid for by people's taxes. When Sanders say it's a basic human right, he's simply saying "let's share the expenses of public education amongst all population". So, in a sense, yes, wealthier people pay more than mid-class and poor people, because they pay more taxes – or should, anyway. If you look at places where there's free tuition at public universities, you are bound to see high taxes. I don't mind paying high taxes for services that improve the lives of everyone.

  44. Go to "college", people say. Shouldn't they mean, "strive to educate yourself"? When did the word 'learning' become nothing more than a synonym for 'college'? And why aren't there societally accepted alternatives to universities? Internships, apprenticeships, vocational programs, tutoring, library outings, events with public speakers, book clubs, recreational math competitions — these are all ways people organize to impart knowledge to others. People are creative and practical; just because the university system is the one that's in place doesn't mean we can't come up with other educational programs that can be valuable too.

  45. What you should really be talking about is how ridiculously high college tuition is and if what you're paying for is worth it. We won't need free college if we audit these universities and find out what they're using all this money for. Once people know EXACTLY what they're paying for, they can make educated decisions. The truth is, the amount of money you pay for education is usually of higher value than that of the education itself, save for STEM fields. Let's not act like there aren't criminals ruining college for the nation. The answer is not to figure out how to pay for these universities who charge an arm and a leg. The answer can be found in competing schools charging a lower rate and higher quality, which can be achieved since most colleges are using the tuition to have more administration instead of bolstering and improving their curriculum. It wouldn't be too difficult to provide a higher quality education for cheaper.

  46. Well, the question is, did implementation of free college in the Nordic countries increase or decrease the dropout rate?

  47. Why do I have to pay for someone else collage?
    Do I have to carry some other loser who don't work hard as I do cuz they want to live the teen cream wave life

  48. I can't believe you americans are still discussing this. Education is a human right, period.

    What to say to a country that doesn't even have a universal health system …

  49. When will you libtards learn. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE. Not only will you still have to pay YOUR DEBT through taxes, but everyone else will have to pay YOUR DEBT through taxes.

  50. Why present only half the story? Of course offering free college to EVERYONE would be a dumb idea – the idea is to offer free tuition but to admit ONLY those who have the high school grades to make the most of a college education. That way the only entry requirements would be academic, rather than monetary. And there's no need to hire more professors or expand university infrastructure if you enforce stringent academic entry requirements. It's a shame Sanders and co don't make this clearer, enabling their opponents to misrepresent their position as a costly lolly scramble. Means-testing applicants makes no sense, as it it requires a growth of bureaucracy and it's also needlessly punitive of the wealthy – it's the taxes of the well-off that are funding free tuition for all students, so do you really expect the children of the well-off to pay again when they enrol?

  51. Why should I pay for Sammy's gender studies degree at a 4 year college when she'll be washing dishes at Starbucks aftwr graduation anyway?

  52. There's better ways to pay for college than taxes and saying it's free when it's really not. There's loans now that you only pay back when you have a job so when you lose your job you don't have to continue paying for your loan since you don't have a job to pay for it. It's a new way of doing it and better than the libtard Democrat way of free shit thru tax increase….

  53. Note Poland also has partiall free college but first you need to have good grades cuz the space is limited every year.

  54. Florida already has the Bright Futures Program where you get to go to college for free if you did well in high school. It also has very affordable community colleges that offer a surprisingly high level of education and guaranteed admission to a 4 year state college if you graduate. These community colleges also offer scholarships and accept anyone who applies. Most top private universities have generous scholarship programs and grant programs if you got the skills. There are some people who would benefit but you would also be raising taxes thereby taking money away from the people who earned it. Free college is too simplistic to be an optimal solution and it is far from the panacea these political extremists claim.

  55. Elon musk self taught rocket science..
    No appetite to learn can't be trusted….
    Artificial intelligence robots on mars already…Lazy humans!

  56. How much is a college degree worth if everyone has one. Nothing! Also Colleges are expensive and they keep raising the cost, because the government has completely taken over education loans and the government doesn’t consider risk in their loan practices. They just give out loans like Halloween candy, so of course Universities are going to take advantage of you. If that wasn’t the case University’s would have to keep their costs within the budget of the average family. Try going to a bank at 18 years old with no job and tell them you want to borrow a hundred thousand dollars for a degree that doesn’t give you any skills or has minimal job prospects, and see what they say. If the government started buying up hammers, the price of hammers would increase a thousand %. This is basic economics, which it seems most people lack knowledge of these days. My advice, don’t waste your money on useless degrees and remove yourself from the workforce for 4years unless you’re learning a real skill and there’s a large market for those skills.

  57. 34,000 is not bad. However for someone who went for something that makes 34,000 or maybe 2,000 more. Will struggle to pay that.

  58. At the beginning, you say that going to college is a pipe dream unless you are rich. Halfway through, you explain that it is so easy to get financial aid that there must be something wrong with you if you can't get any.

    Then you explain that the average student leaves with $34,000 in debt. This is a very achievable amount of debt to pay off. It would be a different story if the average debt was in the 6 figure range, but it's about at the price of a new car. I would trade a new car for a permanent income booster.

  59. Why should people who cannot get in to college or have no desire to go to college pay for someone else’s tuition?

    Let’s look at market based solutions, such as income share agreements or stronger underwriting for student loans. The easy access to credit is funneling young, naive kids into poor performing schools and worthless degrees.

  60. As a college student, I agree with this video because it shows us how the price of college as changed over years. In an article stated Abigail Hess, an career reporter with the CNBC, "70 percent of college students graduate with a significant amount of loans." Like quoted inn the video college has never been really free, it is something that people pay through taxes. Hess also also mentions that "Over 44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. That means that roughly one in four American adults are paying off student loans"(CNBC). This tells us that college overtime will be an issue until more states find ways to make it affordable. This video does a great job at giving viewers a grasp of what the it is like on the student side of things and on the government side as well.

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