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Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

The Problem With Free College

May 29, 2017

In America, it is very important to attend college. Without higher education, it is much more difficult to succeed in life. However, guaranteeing free college, paid for by the government, is a very bad idea. In addition to the moral problems with taking the money of the prosperous because some people didn't make good decisions, it is a bad idea because of its free market complications and philosophical disadvantages. 

In a free market system, such as ours, success is driven by competition. If you are the sole producer of a certain product, a competitor will rise up to challenge your monopoly. They will try to make the same goods at higher quality, for a lower price. Because of this, you are required by the dynamics of the competitive market to strive to outperform your competition by beating them in cost and quality. The competitor responds by making their goods even cheaper and better than yours, and the cycle continues.

For example, let’s say Target makes a special kind of shampoo. This shampoo works pretty well, but is a bit on the expensive side. Walmart then sees that Target is attracting customers with their new shampoo, so Walmart works on getting a better working shampoo, and works on production methods and materials in order to make it cheaper to produce, and easier to sell for less. This forces both Walmart and Target to keep improving their product, so the society as a whole ends up with better and better choices on which shampoo to buy. This same principle applies to colleges. 

Colleges are ruled by the same dynamics, they are competing with other colleges to give the highest quality education for the lowest cost to students, so that people will choose them over another college. When the government makes college free, or reduces the price, or covers a portion of tuition for the less fortunate, it creates higher demand. When more people are able to pay for the service that colleges provide, they are able to improve their programs, and raise prices, and if they don’t, they fall behind in the race to offer the highest quality product, and the college fails because they can’t maintain the same income as the competition. 

When prices rise, fewer people are able to afford it,  so they turn to the government for help, and when the government ‘helps’ them, colleges are able to once again charge higher tuition. This is why college is so expensive in America. Guaranteeing free college helps nobody but the colleges, because they make more, and more, and more money. 

Another problem with providing college for free, is that it disadvantages students. When the government, with taxpayer money, pays for college, students have to sacrifice less to receive a higher education. 

This sounds like a great thing, but it isn’t. In all of the stress students are put under over paying for school, all the money they have to set aside, and eventually, all the money students will have to pay through loans, they place a higher value on education, and on success. When things are provided for free, people lose respect for it. If people don’t have to pay for college, they will lose incentive to major in an area with a high chance of financial success. Some of the biggest lessons taught in college, and school in general, is how to succeed, how to handle stress, and how to value a worthwhile struggle. 

In short, the policy of providing college, and other unnecessary services, is morally wrong, damaging to self-determination, and corrosive to the economy, and the free market system that our country is centered around. Instead of free college, push for things like self-responsibility and deregulation, making good decisions, and striving for success.

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