Monday, March 12, 2012

The Best Things In Life Are Free

If legislators in Michigan have their way, that will include a college education. The proponents of the proposition say that high school graduates in the state could simply go on to college without paying for the education and without it costing the taxpayers a dime. After all, they say, the high school education didn’t cost anything, so why should college?

This comes from genius legislators in a state with fiscal problems that make California look downright frugal. It seems obvious that the legislators putting this proposal on the table do not have an elementary school education about finance and how things get paid for, so they are probably college grads themselves. As my parents used to tell me when I asked them to get me something extremely expensive and somewhat useless, the Michigan legislators probably plan on going out into the back yard and picking some cash off the money tree. Or perhaps they actually think that public education doesn’t cost anything because it is essentially free for the students.

Michigan’s unemployment rate is so high that they might think that schools get built by unemployed construction workers who are volunteering their services. The actual construction materials appear magically in the middle of the night. The schoolbooks are printed by education philanthropists because nobody, not even the schools themselves, should have to pay for educational materials. They also assume that the beneficent unions are paying the teachers out of the proceeds of union charity programs.

If you can do that with primary and secondary education, why not with college? Look at the savings to the students (no more college loans). Look at the savings to the taxpayers. How could anyone oppose such a good deal that benefits everyone and costs nobody anything?

Oh, sure, there are the detractors. On Fox Business, Tracy Byrnes asked: “Where’s the drive and the incentive to want to graduate to get into a good school?” Byrnes continued, “Not every kid should be in college. We need people to do other things … it is a silly silly idea and we cannot afford it.” Obviously, Byrnes is an elitist. Former M.A.S.H. cast member and current financial pundit Wayne Rogers said: “Smart students always find a way to get financial aid or scholarships.” Then, to add insult to injury, Rogers closed with “We have free educations in secondary schools today, and look what a mess that is.”

Even before this proposal can kick in, Michigan already faces the problem of college graduates who can’t read their own diplomas. But it’s a great opportunity for the secondary level school teachers to pass on the blame for certified ignorance to the college instructors. “We prepared them for college, how did they unlearn so much in the next four years?”

I’ve complained for years that I can find a dozen PhD’s who can’t find their way to the bathroom, but I can’t find a good auto mechanic. This proposal, if successful, would go a long way toward explaining why.

22 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

Student debt is a real problem, but the solution is to get the government out of the loan business. All that does is allow colleges to artificially inflate their costs and it acts like a long term tax on education. It's basically a hidden subsidy. The government needs to get out and allow the pricing mechanisms of the private sector to kick in.

Tennessee Jed said...

This thinking is a result of the growing imposition of the welfare state and the "entitlement" system. It reminds how many incredibly stupid people are around today. Must be a result of our cracker jack school system.

Jocelyn said...

Andrew, that would make too much sense. Didn't the government already pass a law that makes all student loans government loans? I feel like that was passed last year.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: That's absolutely correct. Expenses rise to meet income in public education. In the free market, if done right, income rises to meet real expenses. In-state semester tuition at UC Berkeley is currently $7230.25. I paid $86.50 per semester. The cost-of-living index, inflation and quality of education have not gone up enough to explain that disparity.

I guess I should have added "there's no such thing as a free lunch or a free education."

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: As well as an extension of the mass ignorance about why things costs what they cost and that any public benefit you get "for free," somebody else had to pay for.

AndrewPrice said...

Jocelyn, They did just pull more private loans into the system, though I'm not sure they pulled them all into the system.

BTW, here's an article I wrote on the problem of college costs, including a discussion of the direct correlation between the cost of college and the amount of money Uncle Sam has poured into student loans: The Problem of College Costs. (The chart at the bottom.)

John Stossel has made the identical argument.

My article also talks about the 529 scam which guarantees that people will keep feeding the college pig for generations, as it encourages people to do the very things that make them ineligible for grants.

LawHawkRFD said...

Jocelyn: The law is designed to make all student loans government-guaranteed. It's basically a distinction without a difference. Either way, it leaves students indebted to somebody for decades, and if they default, the taxpayers will have to eat the loss.

Joel Farnham said...

Anything free cost twice as much or more if it can be obtained normally. This simple concept is lost on all liberals.

Also, has anyone checked to see if a college degree pays for itself lately. From what I am hearing, nope it doesn't.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: That's a pretty good summation. A college degree is an artificially-inflated demand, skewing the supply and demand cycle that triggers realistic pricing. The only argument that would validate that demand is the cost-benefit analysis that those with a college degree make more money. But as you point out, that disparity is declining rapidly. If everyone has a college degree, whether they're qualified for higher education or not, what is the value of the degree? Zilch, as far as I'm concerned.

Writer X said...

There's something to be said for valuing something that which you have to pay for--at least even a portion.

For any legislator to say that secondary education is "free" is downright frightening.

BevfromNYC said...

Writer X - That is the real point isn't it? Too many students don't value the free public school education now! Why does anyone think that secondary education would be any different?

Like LawHawk, my public university tuition was $300 (incl fees) per semester. That was full Texas in-state tuition until the mid-80's, but we had vast amounts of oil revenues that were footing the cost. No I think it's $5000 - still not bad for one of the top public Universities in the country.

I happen to agree with Wayne Rogers. Not everyone should go to college. It should be for the scholars and the motivated, not a default position after high school is finished. Too many kids are underprepared and flame out in the first year. If anything it should be harder to get into college, not easier.

Tam said...

Free public school education? My property taxes beg to differ.

rlaWTX said...

Tam - that's just your "fair share"!!

It is truly unbelievable to me that this a real proposal. I can't even wrap my mind around the thought process that created this idea.

Dystopia, here we come...

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

The legislatures are confused. What is meant is that the quality of the eduction received at a Michigan college is such that hiring a college grad compared to a high school grad is free fro the employer because the eduction received is not worth paying for.

It is a simple mistake which you need a michigan college eduction to make.

CrisD said...

Why do Michigan lawmakers have to throw salt in the wound by saying that "it won't cost the taxpayers a dime"?
I will attempt to answer my own question: because Americans are now too dumbed down to recognize bull.

LawHawkRFD said...

WriterX: I've missed you around here.

You are so right. If you don't have to work for and/or pay for something, you value it less. Compare the residences of renters with those of unsubsidized owners. Some understand the gift, most don't. The solution is not to grant more subsidies and welfare, it's to get prices in line with their real market value which you can buy when you have the job and the credit rating to do so. The same holds true for college. The solution is for public universities to get rid of the deadwood, quit accepting everyone no matter how unqualified and unprepared, develop real curricula for real students and let the market determine tuition prices, not the availability of loans, subsidies and government assistance. The kind of education being churned out now at the public universities is expensive, but not valuable.

College (except for some isolated majors with motivated students) has simply become the replacement for high school. As the college student pool increased to near-universality, the education has been dumbed-down to fill in the multitudinous gaps left in what used to be a decent high school education.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tam: Property taxes are the major source of funding for schools, as you know. In California, it was done by county and local assessment district. So the leftists in Sacramento decided to tap the property owners to pay for the scum. Previously, the local school districts got their own funds back. Then, with two pieces of legislation and a Jerry Brown-controlled state Supreme Court decision under recalled Chief Justice Rose Bird, the property taxes were all sent to Sacramento for redistribution to the districts. So top-performing school districts like Las Virgenes and Simi Valley got about one-third as much money per student as the South Central L.A. shooting galleries. The first two paid in almost four times as much per pupil as South Central residents. The result is that the two districts formed booster clubs and other school support groups to make up the difference, and they are still top-performing schools while South Central continues to get worse and worse. So South Central gets "free" murderers' rows, and the other two get fine, but overly-expensive schools.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: See my comment to Tam about how they decide what's fair. In California, it's the worst kind of social engineering, and it's an abject failure. There's so much more to education than how much you pay for it, and who you can get to pay for it for you.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: You have their reasoning (and the result) down pat!

LawHawkRFD said...

CrisD: That's exactly it. They don't charge public school elementary and secondary school students, so it must be free. And if that's free, why not college as well? Only a state or nation filled with morons could come up with logic like that.

StanH said...

It was elves Lwahawk that built those schools, ask your guys I bet they’ll confirm.

Just wow! The blithering stupidity of these people is both amusing and alarming.

tryanmax said...

If you combine the message on the protestor's sign from the photo with Andrew and Jocelyn's observations, it paints a very stark picture of the reality government involvement brings, not that the protester had anything so profound in mind.

Part of the whole picture is that government advancement encourages private retreat. The government simply cannot be allowed to pay for things, because that teaches people not to pay for it themselves. Not only are private elementary and secondary schools rare, but things like apprenticeships are virtually nonexistent. I was one of a very few of my peers who actually landed a paid internship during college. Don't give me that malarkey that I'm being paid in experience. I know exploitation when I'm subject to it—-and believe me, graphic designers are expected to pay some hefty dues.

We've all heard the adage that if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. Schools and universities might be failing to create job-ready graduates, but how realistic is that expectation? For all the complaining that such-and-such an industry can't find qualified people, precious little effort is actually made to address the problem. Instead they "call on schools" to train people in the fields they need. At this point, that's nearly a "call on government."

So, yeah, government definitely needs to back out of education, and not just colleges. I know the usual line is to build up private alternatives before government backs out, but how many times has that worked? Education should be the easiest thing to back out of, because companies need skilled people. Industry won't pay for anything that someone else is picking up the tab for. But if they need it and it isn’t free, they'll shell out what they have to.

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