The progressive fantasy issue of the moment is the implementation free college for America’s young people. This idea is wrongheaded for plenty of reasons, enough to fill several articles. Right now, I’m not focusing on the costs or unintended negative side effects, but on the benefits of free college; namely, how insignificant they are.
Let’s start with the negligible effects on unemployment provided by a college degree. High school-educated youth seeking to improve their long-term financial future may look to higher education for answers. Unfortunately for them, the decrease in unemployment rate from high school to college is only 2.5%, from 6% to 3.5% for workers over 25 years old (only 1.5% for an associate’s degree). For a four-year time commitment, those are paltry results. And even if it’s free, attending college isn’t without associated financial hardship. Pursuing college full-time severely limits one’s ability to work a demanding full-time job, meaning reduced income during that time period, in addition to lost professional opportunities in the form of job experience and pursuing specialized training and development at the company.
Keep in mind, even the slightly higher employment prospects between high school and college graduates can be at least partly chalked up to the restricted supply of workers with a university degree compared to those with a lower level of education. In addition to the four years time commitment, college graduates have also accrued an average of $30,000 in debt. The cost of college increases the scarcity of university-educated workers over those only holding a high school diploma, thereby increasing their value. Break down all cost barriers to pursuing higher education, and college becomes the new high school, effectively all but eliminating the gains in making it free to begin with. The bar for young workers to attain a competitive advantage now jumps to the next level, and while this is great for politicians (*cough* Bernie Sanders *cough*) seeking an endless supply of campaign promises to power their lucrative careers, it can only damage the youth.
Free college isn’t free. But even if it were, it still wouldn’t be worth it. Remember that the next time a politician promises you a better future.
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