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?