Free College, Brief Thoughts on

I have a somewhat rocky relationship with the idea of federal or state paid higher education, aka free college. I support the idea fully, but also have some qualifications based on both experience and looking at places where it has been instituted.

In sixteen years of teaching and tutoring at the college level, well, not everyone is cut out for college. And this isn’t a bad thing. Some people, whether a talented auto mechanic or a trust fund baby, just don’t do well with classroom learning and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Likewise, not everyone needs college. Contrary to cultural myths, college is not necessary for a “good” job, assuming we define “good” as paying well. For instance, the average plumber earns more every year than the average college instructor (most of whom are adjunct or “contingent” faculty working for low pay and no benefits).

In the countries where free college (university, in most of them) has been implemented, the percentage of people who attend college is lower than in the U.S. A big reason is that entry exams raise the bar for applications. However, the number of people who attend some form of post-secondary education, ex. trade schools, rises. This is, perhaps, a good thing. After all, society will always have need of plumbers, mechanics, electricians, and related trades, and in the U.S. we’re seeing a shortage in the trades.

I suppose the short version is that I think free post-secondary education or training for anyone and everyone is necessary. Any post-secondary training. Just focusing on college causes problems, like our current overproduction of degree holders at all levels. Also, frankly, focusing on just college is the bad kind of elitist (as opposed to thinking that people should be qualified for their job), and definitely classist.

6 comments on “Free College, Brief Thoughts on

  1. Ola G says:

    Interesting thoughts! From my own experience I’d also add that focusing on college/university education lowers the general level of education and diminishes the significance of a degree, which in the end might factor in the recent trouble with trusting specialists (e.g. vaccination or global warming)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely agree on the diminishing aspect.

      I think the distrust of specialists and experts is the result of other factors, and has been going on a lot longer. It was either Isaac Asimov, IIRC, who noted, decades ago, that anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread in American society (with my history background, I’d say most Western societies).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ola G says:

        I agree. Yet I still think it’s more pronounced these days, with facebook and the information bubbles, than it was in Asimov’s times 🙂 Paradoxically, postmodernism might have played a role in it. But in the country I come from (Poland) academic status used to be a source of prestige; in the recent decade or two its significance had been greatly diminished – at least that’s what various polls indicated.

        Liked by 1 person

      • In the States, I suspect a lot of the diminished status of academics comes from the corporatization of higher education, since the 1970s (possibly a response to the counter-culture movements of the 60s that were incubated by universities). Today, many state universities are seeing 60+% adjunct (part-time) faculty, with full time faculty increasingly being administrative, not classroom.

        Add to that the overproduction of degree holders and the “student-customer is always right” attitude too many upper admins take (along with bloated upper admin, with their CEO level salaries), and it’s unsustainable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ola G says:

        Oh, I know it very well. Those reforms have been instituted in Poland as well. One of the reasons I emigrated 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Side note: would you happen to be Polish or of Polish descent?

    (Half-Polish here, Dad’s side)

    Like

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