There is an idea going around that free college for everyone is a good idea. While this might sound good in theory, free college is actually a terrible idea in the current state of our college system.
This is due to the inefficiency that would skyrocket if it was free. Imagine how many more people would go to college just for the heck of it if it didn’t cost anything. These people wouldn’t care about making the most of their time or putting in the effort to start a career afterward.
They would just be going to get that college experience while they figure out what they actually want to do. I would bet that this would drive the average inefficiency of using college to start a career up over 99%.
Free college would also affect the people that didn’t plan on going to college in the first place. The people who were planning to go into the trades or were going to do something else wouldn’t do it anymore.
Why should they? If it’s the free, fun, and cool thing that all their friends are doing, then why not? If they didn’t go, then they would still have to pay for everyone else to go to college in the form of taxes. That wouldn’t seem fair.
Without people going into fields that don’t require college, it would drive the price of services such as construction, plumbing, and manufacturing way up. Perhaps even to a price that would make it hard for the middle and lower class to afford.
Free college would also make college degrees even more worthless because anyone and everyone would have one. It would come to the point that just a week’s worth of specialized education would be more valuable than a college degree for many jobs.
Fast food restaurants’ new qualification might require a college degree or one month’s worth of work experience. Other than how poorly a college degree would result in getting a good job, imagine how much more inefficient colleges would use the money they get.
If colleges get funding based on the number of students enrolled, then they would just ramp up their spending on what attracts students. This means that for all the students who are just going for the experience, then colleges would just further spend on the experience and less on the education.
This combined with lowered academic standards to accommodate every level would lower the overall quality of the education for the few students who actually want to learn.
The only reason the free college system works at all in some other countries such as Germany and Sweden is because their system is much different than ours.
In Germany they actually separate kids based on their abilities and desired path at the end of 4th grade. This is what keeps the number of people studying different careers in line with their economic demands by limiting how many people can even go to college.
Their college experience isn’t all that different from the apprenticeship experience either. They don’t have a party culture, sports teams, or fraternities and sororities. The government doesn’t pay for much of anything experience-wise as the only thing they provide is the education.
This is why so many people opt to choose apprenticeships over college as there isn’t a big difference in the fun or cool factor. The idea of free college in the US actually stems from the belief that education is a right and is desirable for our society to have educated people.
I firmly believe everyone should have the opportunity to educate themselves. With our modern world giving free or affordable access to education for anyone who wants to learn, it’s no longer necessary for the government to be involved in funding colleges to achieve this goal. Education already is accessible to anyone who wants to learn.
If you want to learn more about a better alternative to college, then read The Lean Career for free.