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Commentary

The Case Against Free College Tuition



Two highly contradictory happenings have occurred over the past year. On the one hand, published research increasingly suggests that the high returns on investments in higher education are minimally exaggerated (my argument in a forthcoming book) and often even non-existent (Bryan Caplan’s point in his new The Case Against Education). The private personal gains from college do not reflect much vocationally relevant learning, but rather diplomas tell employers that recipients are smarter, more disciplined, more motivated workers for reasons unrelated to college skill acquisition. This research suggests that we are over-invested in universities, and that public subsidies for colleges have a relatively low rate of return for the broader society.

The second contradictory trend is a growing movement to encourage attendance by making college “free.” States such as New York, Oregon and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Tennessee, have embraced the concept of free tuition for community college attendance. The newly elected New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has enthusiastically embraced the idea, first prompted most conspicuously by Bernie Sanders, to be financed in New Jersey by raising taxes on affluent residents, with the top rate on the income tax going to 10.75% from 8.97%, as well as increasing the sales tax.



Richard K. Vedder is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University, and co-author (with Lowell Gallaway) of the award-winning Independent Institute book, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America.


From Richard K. Vedder
CAN TEACHERS OWN THEIR OWN SCHOOLS?: New Strategies for Educational Excellence
In Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools?, Richard Vedder examines the economics, history, and politics of education and argues that public schools should be privatized. Privatized public schools would benefit from competition, market discipline, and the incentives essential to produce cost-effective, educational quality, and attract the additional funding and expertise needed to revolutionize school systems.







  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org