Among the panoply of giveaways promised by this election cycle’s field of Democrats is free college. At least 15 candidates are all in and chances are that number will increase.
In April, Liz Warren tweeted, “I’m calling for universal free college and the cancellation of student loan debt for more than 95% of Americans. This is the kind of big, structural change we need to make sure our kids have opportunity in this country.”
The Warren suite of free college and debt forgiveness would be paid for by the Ultra-Millionaire Wealth Tax, as would many of her other initiatives.
Frontrunner Joe Biden has come out for two years of free college, saying in May, “Send everybody to a community college for free, cutting in half the cost of their four-year education.”
Biden’s plan may fluctuate if his polling does and he has taken several positions on the issue over the years.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced legislation called the College for All Act in 2017. It would have made college free for families making less than $125,000 a year. “If we can give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to people who don’t need it, we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free all over this country, and that’s a very high priority for me,” he said earlier this year.
During a CNN town hall in March, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) declared, “We are going to go towards a system of debt-free college, free community college, and make sure that certain professions, like teachers – if you’re willing to teach or be a school professional, especially in communities like Orangeburg or Newark, we are going to forgive your debt.”
In March, Sen. Kamala Harris, (D-Calif.), along with dozens of members of Congress reintroduced the Debt-Free College Act. “Students in America should be able to go to college to further their careers without going deep into a financial hole,” she said in a news release.
Pete Buttigieg has come out against free college tuition, and Beto O’Rourke has held out supporting it wholeheartedly but has teased a preference for a two-year college supplement.
Not surprisingly none of the free college initiatives will actually be free for the taxpayers who will ultimately pay the bill. Also, the recipients of most of this Democratic goodwill will be Americans who need it least. Middle-class and somewhat wealthy students will benefit the most.
Also, what is to incentivize a student who receives free college to take courses or embark on a major that would be financially fruitful without the instant pressure of needing to address the expense of the education? Indeed, what will incentivize students to finish a degree or certificate at all?
Further, if college is free, enrollment numbers will skyrocket and more graduates will be spat out into the workforce with near-identical resumes. That will certainly drive down wages and reduce the prospect of employment at all for many.
Free college will not be free for the taxpayer and will be a disservice for most students, most of whom may want the handout, but don’t need it.