What would a free college education be worth?

Isaac Brown, Staff Writer

This is the land of opportunity. People from all kinds of backgrounds hope that through hard work and ingenuity they can build a comfortable life. Without a doubt, a college education facilitates the pursuit of happiness.

That being said, I wonder if the method for free two-year college proposed by President Obama will do more harm then good.

In my mind, there is no better investment a country can make than in the education of its population. Consider how college is helping you reach your goals. We do not exist in a vacuum where teaching more people decreases the value of an education. Edification has a synergistic-uplifting affect on a society.

If you think that we will always need someone to sweep floors and flip burgers, you’re wrong. In the 1800s, over 60 percent of the population was involved in farming.  Because of innovation, today roughly two percent work in farming. These changes have lead to many of the luxuries we take for granted.

Though I love the idea of free education, I have reservations about how best to accomplish this. As part of the president’s plan, colleges will be compensated based off of students’ success, including their GPA and graduation rate.  The problem is that this encourages colleges to hand out better grades and graduate more students, or risk losing eligibility for funds.

I feel that this same approach of incentivizing quantifiable results has lead to the failures in K-12 education. Teachers have to focus a large portion of the school year on training students to do well on standardized tests. The result is thirteen years of education, with each year carrying the cost of roughly $8,000, in order to get a high school degree that qualifies you for skill-free-entry-level-factory work.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, though. It would be better to simply pay tuition, and let students pick their college based on their desired outcome. Lets keep academic control with the colleges and accountability for grades and graduation in students’ hands where it belongs. Autonomy encourages success, and as George Washington Carver put it, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”