Sunday, November 21, 2010


The University of California Regents voted to raise tuition at all UC schools by 8% next year. Tuition will be over $11,000 not including campus fees and room and board. A few years ago, tuition was approximately $6,000. It has gone up over 80% in less than 10 years. More students, qualified to attend a UC school, will find themselves on the outside looking in because of the cost of an education.
University education in America should be FREE. If this nation's leaders are truly concerned about our national security, they need to open the Ivy halls to as many students as possible. Instead, the numbers are going in the opposite direction. UC schools are turning down more students as are state universities and for the first time community colleges are refusing to accept applications. At a time when we are not producing enough engineers and scientists, as well as poets and programmers, the UC regents voted to make it harder to afford an education. This is short sighted and a recipe for future instability for our country.

According to USA Today, parents spent $64 billion to send their children to college last year. We currently spend over $100 billion a year just for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Right now, if there was the desire, college could be free for most American students. The economic impact would be immediate. Every family of college age kids would have tens of thousands of discretionary dollars to pump into the economy. If they don't have to borrow the money, that too frees up funds for other purposes. It would stimulate the economy more than anything tried by Washington. Students are graduating owing $50,000 to $100,000 not including graduate school. It is the equivalent of a first mortgage. They are unable to put any discretionary funds into the economy. They are unable to take lower paying, but possibly more beneficial and desperately needed, teaching and entrepenurial jobs due to the debt they owe.

Right now in Washington, they are discussing a national sales tax and a one year moratorium on the payroll tax to both raise revenue and prime the economic pump. Free college would flood the nation with discretionary spending and reduce family debt. One dollar spent on the military has almost no multiplier effect on the economy. One dollar spent on education has a multiplier effect of over $5 and when you add that multiplier to the extra money each family would have in its pocket, the impact on the economy would be immediate and dramatic.
Free tuition would be means tested. If your family is in the top 2% of income families, you would still pay tuition. If you are in the bottom 10% you would get subsidies to cover tuition and room and board. This idea would be a huge boost for the middle class. For once, they would benefit from a government program. At the same time college costs would have to be contained. 100 college presidents made over $1 million last year. One made over $9 million and it wasn't at Harvard or Yale. College costs would have to be monitored and justified. Very similar to what doctors have to do with Medicare, or in dealing with HMOs, universities would negotiate tuition increases. They would also be able to opt out and charge tuition with their students not receiving any government help.
We are falling behind India, China and other nations in the number of key graduates we are producing. This is a national security concern. Education is the key to future innovation and the ability of the US to remain competitive with its rivals. Raising tuition and reducing the number of students who can attend college, or saddling their families or them with more debt, will put us at a h huge disadvantage.
I have been advocating free college tuition for years. We can afford it. Actually, we can't afford not to throw open university doors to students across this land. How on earth can any rational person look at a nation which spend over $700 billion on the military each year, and watches fewer of its people get the advanced education they need to compete, and think this is a sustainable path?
This idea has reached its tipping point. It stimulates the economy, creates jobs, reduces family debt, produces a more educated work force, jump starts innovation and the new entreprenures we need. The middle class would be the main beneficiaries and would grow under this plan. A solid middle class is the key to a stable and secure nation. Every dollar spent would be multiplied 500% more than one dollar spent for the Pentagon. China and India as well as a number of our European and emerging market competitors already offer essentially free university education.
It's time. We have a choice. Go the way of Rome or prolong the intellectual and industrial juggernaut this nation has become. The money is there. Is the political will?


  1. Bernie,

    That's it? Just cut the military budget and make all higher education "free"? That's the best you can do?? - especially in California, with its unaffordable government size, services, and - perhaps most important - public pensions? Just leave all those bloated items as-is...and, in fact, add more "free" services? Do you really wonder why there was a genuine revolt earlier this month against this kind of nonsensical thinking? Please, Bernie, get real.

    BTW, should we also provide "free" education and healthcare to the illegals (excuse me, I meant "undocumented workers")?

  2. Taking 64 billion and investing in our future is not the best we could do, we could do more. we have a military budget that is reflective of the number of vultures that feed on pentagon privatization. You must know no one who serves or you would be angered that the troops and sailors suffer terrible chow because they no loner cook their own chow but have corporate vultures serving them slop. Stand up for the soldier and sailor and refuse to privatize core services and you will find 40% of DOD cutbacks would not hurt any serving. let's get out of the empire business

  3. The class warfare that began with Ronald Reagan is now reaching the endgame. Millions of Americans now chronically jobless, unaffordable college education, barely survivable working wages if you're lucky to have work, an infrastructure that is in dire need of massive rejuvenation, health care that is ranked 37th even though we are still the wealthiest nation on earth, and perpetual war abroad where we spend 2.6 billion a week in Afghanistan just to prove - what? we're the tough guys on the block?

    On Thanksgiving Day, I watched the Ten Commandments - a favorite of mine, with the incredible Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston (despicable in his politics but amazing actor), and the lovely Ann Baxter (who did you know - maternal grandfather was Frank Lloyd Wright).

    I could not help but think conditions are now becoming comparable here in the States with the same theme written about 2000 years ago - extreme exploitation of a relatively few powerful and wealthy upon a large group of people. Selfishness so great that immorality and contempt for human life begins to set in.

    The only thing in the movie that does not appear to exist right now is some kind of Moses - or movement to stop the huge amount of suffering taking place.

    But we must have faith right? I do not believe this is an accident nor is the world meant to be a mockery of what is decent and good. So perhaps change may be in the works - I am keeping my eyes open for it -