The unintended consequences of 'free' college tuition

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
 | 
Bob Kellogg, Jody Brown (OneNewsNow.com)

college tuition costs 1An education policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation predicts that the latest "free" college plan – this one proposed by the Democratic governor of Virginia – will ultimately fail.

Governor Ralph Northam is proposing a $145 million plan for "free community college" tuition to encourage students to study for the jobs Virginia needs. However, Mary Clare Amselem of The Heritage Foundation doesn't give his proposal much of a chance for the same reasons that similar plans have failed: that is, they don't address the real reasons driving soaring education costs.

"I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that we need a stronger connection between education and work," she tells OneNewsNow. "However, achieving that through burdensome legislation that asks taxpayers to foot the bill for community college is simply not the way to achieve that goal."

Northam's plan is similar to that proposed by New Mexico's Democratic governor in October. At that time, Amselem wrote that as with every "free" college program, the Land of Enchantment's proposed Opportunity Scholarship program is "riddled with problems" and operates under the false assumption that everyone should go to college.

Amselem

"Instead, state legislators should bolster short-term programs that focus on marketable skills," she stated. "A four-year bachelor's degree is a good option for some, but not all students." Supporting her argument, she cited data from a July 2017 report by the New York Federal Reserve Bank showing that 44% of recent college graduates were in jobs that didn't require a college degree.

Amselem also believes the estimated $145 million price tag of Northam's plan, which is supposed to cover the cost for two years, is a gross underestimate of what it will cost Virginia residents in the long run.

"That's exactly the problem with many of these large spending packages – they often cost a lot more than initially projected," she explains, "because, of course, when you have something that's free, you'll have many students who will sign up."

According to the policy analyst, free college "is hardly free at all [because it] would be tremendously costly to students, taxpayers, and the economy at large."

She concludes: "… There are plenty of unintended consequences that come from programs like this."

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