The Million Student March
|Million Student March: UC Davis, CA 2014|
College students across the country are marching to protest the rising cost of college tuition and excessive student loan debt. They're calling for tuition-free public colleges and a cancellation of all student debt. They're also demanding a minimum wage increase for campus workers, to $15 an hour.
The movement's organizers released a statement saying, "Education should be free. The United States is the richest country in the world, yet students have to take on crippling debt in order to get a college education."
But contrary to what the movement's organizers believe, education can't be free. In fact, it's been said of health care that if you think it's expensive now, wait until it's free. The same could be said about higher education. Making it "free" for students will make it more expensive for taxpayers by, for instance, incentivizing schools to raise tuition.
It's not a coincidence that this is happening one year from the presidential election. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been stressing this issue for months in an effort to galvanize young voters to go to the polls next November.
Socialist Sen. Sanders has pledged to make tuition "free" at public universities and to cut interest rates on student loans. Clinton has promised to increase access to tuition grants and give graduates the option to refinance their loans
I agree that too many students are saddled with too much debt when they leave college. According to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, total U.S. student loan debt has more than doubled, to $1.2 trillion, in less than a decade. Many young people struggle or fail to make their student loan payments. Millions have gone into default.
Perhaps worst of all, too often students learn little while at college. In fact, at least one study has shown that college can make students less knowledgeable after four years. Clearly many students aren't getting their money's worth.
There's a good debate to be had over what to do about soaring college tuition and student debt. But the answer is not "free" tuition. Rather, part of the answer is to encourage vocational training for those who may not be suited for college. It would also help to steer those who do go to college into majors that will help them get a decent job when they leave.
As for the Million Student March participants, a few classes in rudimentary economics wouldn't hurt either.
Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families
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