Sorry, Bernie: Tuition Free ≠ Debt Free

by Kyle Jorstad

Sorry, Bernie: Tuition Free ≠ Debt Free
Sorry, Bernie: Tuition Free ≠ Debt Free
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Pennsylvania –  -(Ammoland.com)- With the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic Primary just around the corner and scores of college-aged voters up for grabs, affordable public college education has become a key selling point for Bernie Sanders.

The Sanders plan to “Make College Tuition-Free and Debt-Free” proposes offering free tuition at public colleges and universities, lowering interest rates on current and future student loans, meeting 100 percent of low-income students’ financial needs, and tripling the federal work-study program.

As with most government handouts, the Sanders plan will likely cost more and deliver less than it promises.

Let’s start with the cost estimates for free public higher education. Virtually every advocate of free tuition references an article in The Atlantic from January 2014, which estimates the cost at roughly $62.6 billion. Sanders, factoring in his additional proposals, predicts closer to $75 billion. Two-thirds of his plan would be federally funded via new taxes on Wall Street speculators, with states contributing the remainder.

The problem with these calculations is that they are based on static projections for tuition costs. If this assumption proves faulty, the actual cost of implementing the Sanders plan will balloon. And there are three good reasons to expect an increase in tuition costs.

First, history suggests that tuition will continue to rise. Tuition rates have been gradually increasing over past decades, with students now paying 3.22 times more than in 1985 [See Figure 6, p. 18]. The Sanders plan will likely exasperate this trend because it will remove any incentive for public institutions to slow these increases.

Second, any reduction in current sources of revenue would likely require increases in tuition rates to cover the shortfall. For example, a large portion of public college budgets are governmentally funded through grants, tax benefits, and work-study programs. In 2014, state aid and local taxes cumulatively contributed $81.6 billion in these areas. Cuts to state or local budgets could result in less revenue for public colleges and universities, which would have to be offset by higher tuition rates.

Most public institutions also depend on revenue from hospitals, auxiliary enterprises, private gifts, investment income, and other educational activities. These sources contributed $80 billion—or one-third of total revenue—to public institutions (four-year, two-year, and less than two-year) in 2012. Although these programs are generally self-sustaining, the amount of revenue they generate is not guaranteed. Unexpected revenue deficits in these areas could also result in tuition hikes, costs ultimately saddled onto the taxpayer under the Sanders plan.

Third, the advent of free tuition will provide a powerful incentive for students to enroll in public colleges and universities. Whether motivating those who never before considered college to finally enroll, or incentivizing private college students to switch to the public sector, or a combination of both, the result will be the same—a significant increase in the cost of offering free tuition, well above estimates based on static enrollments in public institutions.

As faulty as Sanders’ cost estimates appear, perhaps the more troubling aspect of his plan is its false promise of eliminating student loan debt. The cost of college attendance includes far more than just tuition. In fact, fully half of public college students’ expenditures remains room and board. The College Board reports the average published tuition rate for public four-year in-state students as $9,410, while the corresponding price of room and board is $10,138. Textbooks are another significant cost of attendance, with the average public undergraduate student paying $1,200 annually.

Admittedly, many public institution students attend a community college or commute, which minimizes room and board costs but does not eliminate them entirely. If only tuition is covered by government, students will still require loans to pay for their textbooks, room, and board, and many will remain weighed down with debt.

While promising to provide a postsecondary panacea, Sanders merely increases government spending without lifting students’ financial burdens.

Before enacting a new federal entitlement, the American people deserve a more careful accounting of its costs. As currently written, the price tag of the Sanders plan is simply not as affordable as its proponents claim. College-aged voters would do well to look past the tirades against Wall Street speculators and demand more details—details such as exactly what services will be “free,” meticulous analysis of the plan’s financial assumptions, and specifics regarding how unexpected costs will be funded.

They might be surprised to learn that the so-called free lunch they are being offered costs far more than suggested—and it doesn’t really taste that good, either.

 

Kyle Jorstad is a student at Grove City College studying political science with minors in Spanish and economics. Passionate for writing and educational discourse, Kyle plans enrolling in law school following graduation.

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RayJN
RayJN
5 years ago

Should not the socialist/communist indoctrinating professors be willing to work for minimum wages or less for the “common good?” Arizona the Universities never have enough money, yet have professors teaching one class per week.

truceral
truceral
5 years ago

Simply put, Bernie is a nut !

Bud
Bud
5 years ago

As a retired teacher I can tell you that students who do not have an investment in their education will flunk out at a much higher rate than others who pay their way. When that happens that free tuition will have been spent for nothing and the tax payer still holds the bag.. Those students(I use the word loosley) will go their way and we will still pay. At the very least it should be demanded that a B average be maintained or you are charged for each course you fail. I earned a Masters degree while teaching full time.… Read more »

SiGraybeard
SiGraybeard
5 years ago

And there’s your problem right there! “Albert” and the guy he quotes think it’s their right to socially engineer the colleges and universities because he doesn’t like the way they use their money. No. It is not your right. Your right is to choose to not go there and not give them any of your money. That’s all. Nobody has any right to anyone else’s money, nobody has any right to tell them how to manage it. Yes, Harvard could pay full undergrad tuition for every undergrad forever without even touching the principle in their endowment. So what? They could… Read more »

Albert
Albert
5 years ago

These schools are sitting on multiBILLION$ while they raise tuitions. Rockefellar, Ford, and other “foundations” have even greater amounts that they use to “SOCIAL EXPERIMENT”(fund Liberal programs) with YOUR lives ——————————- America is dying from lack of economic activity, yet there are TAX-FREE so-called trusts, foundation, endowments, sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars. They provide huge, steady, salaries to ‘trustees” who have NO interest in ending the Party. Government need to put “Mandatory Term Limits” on them. Make these Money Machines spend ALL that money in a certain amount of time. Things like the Ford Foundation should have been… Read more »

Herb
Herb
5 years ago

I’d like to remind the naysayers and wet blankets that in the past, socialists and communists have found effective ways to silence the truth. They obviously have already taken over many of the “news” media. Don’t say you weren’t warned when the democrats come to take you away. Yeah, yeah – “It can’t happen here” was the same thing said before obama was elected. And now the federal government, which wasn’t that swift or honest before, is now worse than ever Look at the liars and socialists and muslims that have infested the government at the highest levels.

Eric
Eric
5 years ago

And never be able to retire because of taxes.

Janek
Janek
5 years ago

Here’s another equation for you – Sanders = Higher Taxes + Less Disposable Income.