If College were Free… Would We Want It?
Sometimes I think about how our Founding Fathers intended to guarantee everyone a free education; not a professional education, but the basics anyone needs in order to get by in society. Unfortunately, I think the standards have changed. College is now just as necessary as high school.
Does that mean it should be free?
On the surface, I’d say yes. But then again, if it were free, would we want it? I’m not so sure. After all, look at the condition of our public schools today! They are nothing short of a funding disaster. While our children consistently fall short of other nation’s children in subjects such as math and science, politicians bicker about whether teaching Intelligent Design in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. (I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but our goal is to continue producing generations of scientists, right?) And while poor and working-class minorities are concentrated in certain neighborhoods and schools just as much as they were pre-Desegregation, certain administrations set up systems that punish schools for low scores by taking away funding!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want these problems spreading to college as well. Honestly, public universities and community colleges have enough problems with funding and bureaucracy already. They don’t need more.
That being said, though, I don’t think any of this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind — No Child Left Behind or required higher education at even higher prices. I think they would tell us that the exact problem they tried to avoid — a good education being available only to the elite classes — is happening all over again. So yes, if you consider it like that, a college education should be free — or at the very least, more accessible.
But until we can find a way to make college affordable (or free) without undermining its quality, I just don’t think it’s realistic — no matter what Jefferson or Adams or Franklin would have wanted.