The idea of a free higher education system is not the best approach to fixing rising college costs. First, it infringes on the autonomy of the taxpayer. Second, technical and trade schools should have higher value in society. Third, public high school needs to be improved first.
First, as soon as a system of anything free is implemented, the taxpayer suffers. Free does not really mean free, because someone ultimately pays for it and education is no exception, as it leaves taxpayers footing the bill. This leads to less of a choice as to where their money goes, and they have less money available from each paycheck.
Every taxpayer pays to send someone to college, whether or not they choose to go themselves. It takes away the tax payer’s choice. Even a progressive tax does more long-term harm than good, because it restricts what the high tax brackets can do with innovation.
Second, trade and technical schools need to be viewed in a more positive light. Technical schools allow people more opportunity to pursue their passions, natural talents, and offer more of a hands-on approach. Not everyone will excel in a university setting because they learn differently and have different passions and strengths. As a society, we must change how we talk about technical schools because “blue collar” does not have to be a dirty word.
The manufacturing sector can provide lucrative employment opportunities with on the job or vocational training. Students are able to take courses specific to their career paths that prepare them for the workforce. Technical schools allow students to get the training they need without the cost.
College should not be the only option for high school graduates. Furthermore, forcing college only devalues the degree.
Third, we must improve our high school education system first, before we attempt to offer free public tuition. We are falling behind other countries, and our public high schools are not preparing its students to enter the workforce.
The United States is ranked 38 in math and 24 in science out of 71 countries, and our test scores continue to fall. It’s clear that there’s a problem here. A few ways we can improve K-12 education are by integrating technology into the class room, developing critical thinking and writing skills and encouraging access to experiential learning.
Technology in the classroom is crucial because it will prepare students to use it properly and effectively in the real world. It allows students to find the original documents in history class or practice more problems in math. And the fact that only 6 percent of 12th graders have critical thinking skills should be a red flag.
Engaging students through internships or apprenticeships shows students the importance of their education and allows students to use it while they’re still in school. Implementing a program that allows high school students to intern or apprentice in a career they want to pursue after high school gives them that opportunity.
Free higher education is appealing at first glance, but once you look at the details, it’s too idealistic for this moment in U.S. history.