Can public higher education be free?

In a recent op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders writes,

An important pathway to the middle class now runs through higher education, but rising costs are making it harder and harder for ordinary Americans to get the education they want and need. In 1978, it was possible to earn enough money to pay for a year of college tuition just by working a summer job that paid minimum wage. Today, it would take a minimum wage worker an entire year to earn enough to cover the annual in-state tuition at a public university. And that’s why so many bright young people don’t go to college, don’t finish or graduate deeply in debt. With $1.3 trillion in student loans, Americans are carrying more student debt than credit card or auto-loan debt. That’s a tragedy for our young people and for our nation.

Many countries currently offer free tuition for public colleges and universities, such as Germany and Brazil. In Minnesota, there has been a push for free tuition at two-year technical and community colleges, although critics question how it will be paid for, and whether the investment is worthwhile.

Today’s question: Can public higher education be free?

  • Sue de Nim

    You mean, learn from what’s working in other countries? We don’t have a history of doing that in America.


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  • James

    Can public higher education be free? Of course it can. It’s just a choice.
    Should public higher education be free? No it shouldn’t be free. In a fundamentally greedy place like here, free is too cheap and devalues the service.
    I think there should be a reasonable “sticker price” for education and state loans for some fraction (50%?) of the cost that are forgiven over the first 5 or 10 years post-college, if the student lives and works in Minnesota.

  • PaulJ

    Twenty canonical texts with 20,000 interactive multiple choice questions, could make a free 2 yr general degree, because there’d be no teachers or buildings. That is- “free” in the sense that the cost it build and operate it could be spread so thinly as to be de minimis Anything more than that could only be free in the sense that someone else has to pay for it.

    • kevins

      Huh?

  • Hunter

    Nothing is free_ EMPLOYED AMERICANS PAY THE TAXES THAT FUND THESE PROJECTS.Why are we avoiding the top story of the week?
    Why was the U.S. in Libya, why were security requests denied, why
    couldn’t the military respond quickly on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 knowing ahead of time there were threats for terrorist attacks
    and why did the administration change its explanations of the attacks in
    the weeks afterward?
    Answer: Logic supplies the answer: Hillary and Obama were campaigning on their fraudulent “success” with bombing Libya, shipping some of Kadaffi’s weapons to Syrian rebels, which were actually ISIS terrorists in Syria, new emails show Hillary and her pal were working a deal with a known illegal arms dealer to get Kadaffi’s weapons shipped over to Syria and the narrative that they had Al-Queda on the ropes after Bin Laden was killed by SEALS, just didin’t look good if the Benghazi attack was reported as orchestrated terrorist attack..but so easy to say a stupid You Tube vid pissed off a few neighborhood protesters?? wow and then to keep lying about it for weeks later? wow.
    Lets all vote for a candidate that gets caught purposely lying to the public to provide cover for a re-election. that’s some character huh? Just wait till the FBI gets done with her..about time our government came clean and time MPR asks relevant issues vs Free college, a campaign stance for the liberal socialist Sanders. Hmm_ today’s question is nothing more than getting the Dem’s campaign issue aired for feedback, a mini poll to see if it flys with the public..ack.

  • Gary F

    Nothing is free. The government must forcefully take the fruits of one person’s labor and give it to someone else.

    • PaulJ

      Anyway, what benefit is would it do? There’s already free high school and it can’t even teach kids that voting on the basis of political commercials isn’t wise.

  • Nightowl

    I’d like to see it free for the vast majority of kids — the ones Bernie Sanders is talking about. It should be income based though. It makes no sense for wealthy people’s kids to get this, especially the very wealthy. One unintended advantage is that the for-profit schools would probably close.

  • Dan in Duluth

    If Cuba can offer free higher education why can’t the good old USA.

    • whitedoggie44

      In Cuba, within the constitution, it is illegal to have independant thought from the government-

  • MNSgtMg Ret

    What no one is asking is ” why has tuition skyrocketed every year, 3x more than the rise we have seen in other costs?”
    Here is the awefull truth but adults can handle it_ The liberal government set up a system many years a go where universities get a percentage of gov. reimbursement $$$ based upon what?_ Ta Da_ all is based upon their tuition amount per student. The more the school charges for tuition, the more $$$ they receive from the gov. It is a percentage based inducement to scam for the most.
    Romania used to have free college based upon one’s test scores and_ every HS grad did almost 3 years in the military so when they got out, if they had the smarts to succeed, they had “earned” a free college life.
    Imagine one can earn a degree by first serving the country that pays for it? OMG the horror :p Maybe, many Libs don’t like that system because they couldn’t handle the discipline to be in the service, even if they didn’t have to handle the oooowwweee scary guns, they could still drive supply trucks.

  • Eioljg

    I would lean toward lower costs, with the basic costs subsidized more by the government like it used to be. But I wouldn’t make it totally free because often free things aren’t valued. There should be some community service. Right now, certain typed of jobs and positions earn a right to get out of some school debt. That makes sense. One time when my son had a tuition bill for community college due, we had intended to pay a good portion of it, but we had a mess up in communication, and we were away taking care of a family situation at the time it was due. My son had to figure out how to deal with this. He got a load from his bank. He said that it was a good lesson for him, to not take the tuition payment for granted.

  • Martha P

    I think all senators should have got free college courses in logic and morality, then maybe they would have voted for Kate’s law?

  • Floyd R. Turbo, Jr.

    Heck no! People go off to college and come back liberals! What is it about education that makes people stupid? I think, the less education we give our kids, the better. In fact, we should make college even more expensive by taxing it heavily. (That’s a tax that only rich folks would pay, so I won’t have to.) An 8th grade education was good enough for my grandpappy, so it should be good enough for my kids, too.

  • whitedoggie44

    t
    Bernie Sanders logical end point is always the same “its all free”. That which is not paid for is overused-Larry Summers. As bernie works to expand those who feed at the government trough, his goal is too expand the moocher class so we are all beholden to big government. Sorry lefties, there are just not enough rich people to pay for his 18 trillion in spending.

    • Yanotha Twangai

      Let me get this straight. If I understand you correctly, you believe Bernie Sanders’ hidden ulterior motive is to get people dependent on government so that he can, what, seize power as a dictator? Or is he a cog in someone else’s secret plan to become the evil emperor? Or do you imagine a secret cabal orchestrating all this? Please explain this further, because what you’re saying comes across to me as delusional and paranoid.

      • MNSgtMg

        Whitedoggie44 has it correct, to expand the dependency class. Once people
        Why do you think the notorious billionaire George Soros sets up RADICAL groups like Black Lives matter and Media matters and move on .Org? Playing the victim and race card to garner dependent liberal voters.
        Why else does he promote a One World Order government where a few elite control every country to the point that there are no independent countries anymore? Look how the UN has been washed down, where countries with terrible human rights can sit on the UN committees, etc. Free college will eventually end up like our public schools, where a Kdg. kid is suspended for chewing a Pop Tart that reminded a teacher of a gun shape! These schools are mostly run and taught by severe liberals. As Hitler once wrote, ” to control the population we must control all education first.”

        • Yanotha Twangai

          Ooh, and I thought whitedoggie44 was paranoid!

          • MNSgt Mg

            Truth hurts, eh? Name caling with Paranoid doesn’t serve your cause very well. Go Google Soros and learn something.
            Why not ask the liberal professors to take a 50% pay cut to pay for their free college? Because that’s like asking Hillary to answer the congressional questions such as: WHY didn’t she ever have contact with Stevens in Benghazi since she said twice_ he was the most knowlegable about Libya? Why she ignored 602 requests for better security? Or why she left our people in an under served, under secure consulate and then went home within an hour of the 8 hour attack that killed 4? Incompetence of the worst degree.

          • Yanotha Twangai

            “Truth hurts”? Is that why you reacted to my calling a paranoid conspiracy theory what it is? Keep posting. You’re making my case for me.

    • Sue de Nim

      The fallacy of that kind of slippery slope argument (the “end point” you refer to) is that there’s a slope in both directions. The logical end point of the right wingers’ ideological prescription is plutocracy. Both extremes are misguided. If we avoid going down one slippery slope by going down the opposite one, we still haven’t avoided disaster.

      You are also incorrect in claiming that it’s Sanders’ “goal” to “expand the moocher class.” You could reasonably hold the opinion that his policy prescription would be likely to lead to that, but that’s not what he intends. It’s the same with the GOP’s right wing. I’m sure they don’t intend to create a plutocratic oligarchy (most of them, anyway), but that would be the inevitable result of the full implementation of their ideas.

  • Leah J.Thurber

    Whether higher education should be free for all is likely to generate a controversy. Money is needed to fund education, research, and advancements. Tuition is necessary, and as soon as we hand out education for free, the overall value of that education will go out the window. Personally I agree with the idea that we should be even more involved in the education system. There are so many issues, that cause a lot of problems for students, such as the need of using additional info and services to do some tasks because of the lack of time; searching for additional earnings. Moreover, if we made education free how would the professors who teach students get paid? Or the faculty that serves the school? There are many issues with making education free. But if they could lower tuition and give colleges more funding to help support students with their educational needs, that would be the proper solution to this issue.

  • GenerationX last of the Jedi

    As long as billions of United States tax dollars are being spent on the United States Military than Children who are born in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and now have the right to a free Community College Education? My father who is a 70 year old Human Beings works the University Wisconsin Eau Claire is a well payed professor also agrees. No one should be forced into debt and no other Generation of other Human Beings should be throwing another generation of Human Beings under the bus because of a feuding Class war since the 60’s. Wake up America! Stop destroying your own children’s future right now. I am not sure who is the dumbest generation of Humans those who were borne in the 40’s or those who were born 80’s but the true reality is right now We humans need to help each other. It does not matter if you are Black, White! Yellow We are all Human Beings and I respect you. I want my tax dollars to save the future and the future is now. I will pray for all of you. God bless America and fight for free Community College before China takes all the smart people away and The United States proves once again how the over educated and the most ignorant kill us all off with feuding a Class war. S.o.S Stop trying to kill us.Do not live in fear. 2016. Do not live in fear. See you at the voting polls. Please stop the class wars. please vote. 2016. Please vote!!!

  • Kurt O

    Use sliding cost scales based on subject areas: Science and education classes = Free; Political science and classical studies = $$$.

    Then retool the AA, BA, BS requirements to reduce the number of general ed classes that inflate costs.

    • Yanotha Twangai

      I would recommend a different strategy. If you’re going into a field that commands high salaries and bonuses (like the STEM subjects or finance), you should have to pay for it yourself. If your major is one that makes you a better citizen without necessarily making you more employable (history, philosophy, art, education, etc), you should get some help with that.

      • whitedoggie44

        why would a degree in a worthless, useless major make you a better citizen. As usual, you are living in a bizzaro world. majoring in stem, accounting, finance should be rewarded by worthless degrees should be penalized. That is how the real world works!

        • Yanotha Twangai

          For those who measure “worth” strictly in dollars, your comment would make sense.

  • Hello Kitty2016

    Cut the crap kids….If we are going to have equality on this planet suck it up. Free COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR THOSE WHO WANT IT. DO not be a fascist. 2016 NOW. By th way it will encourage fokes to get a decent job. Right now the revolution has just begun. 2016 now.

    • MNSgtMg

      Owwweee, go “60’s revolution stuff. Love it, as that’s like endorsing the stupid “black lives -err- black lies- matter” radical bull crap. They still believe Treyvon Martin was shot by a cop! Low IQ radicals all fueled so easily because they are the most gullible- so said Mr. Progressive radical anti semite, George Soros.