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Free Is A Terrible Price

October 16, 2015


During Tuesday’s Democratic debate, socialist lion Bernie Sanders differed from Hillary Clinton by stating college tuition in America should be free. Hillary believes tuition should be much less expensive but not free. I admire Bernie Sanders as a man of integrity and champion of the middle class, but on this issue I agree with Hillary. In my opinion, people don’t value something that’s obtained without cost.


When my brother was a senior in high school he informed my parents that it was their responsibility to provide him with a car. My mother nearly choked laughing. My brother railed and fumed, but never received a free car. When my turn came, I realized a different approach was necessary. I thought long and hard when my mother, who controlled the family purse strings, asked, “You’re going to college, right?”


My response: “If I go to college I’ll need a car. It would be unfair of me to expect you and Dad to buy me one so I think I’ll just stay home and live with you guys for a while.”


The keys to a free car, a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle, were pressed into my hand by the end of the week.


I mention this because I never appreciated that car. I received it without having to work for it, and it meant very little to me. I didn’t maintain it very well, as I did with later cars requiring payments.


In college, a photographer friend created a picture I really admired, a post election scene of a forlorn St. Bernard sitting on a porch with a McGovern sticker in the window. He offered it to me for thirty bucks, but I turned it down. He later gave me the photograph. Did I treasure and take care of it? No! It ended up crushed in the back of a closet. Had I paid for that photograph I’m sure I would have taken better care of it.


In Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, a socialist police lieutenant in a fictional Latin American country outlawing religion, hunts down a priest for breaking the law by performing his religious duties. After capturing the priest, the lieutenant comments on the hypocrisy of the priest charging impoverished peasants to baptize their children. The priest replies that if the sacrament were given away for free, it would be perceived as having no value. By paying for it, the sacrament becomes worthy of sacrifice.


Back to Bernie Sanders: If college tuition becomes free and anyone can attend without sacrifice, many will look upon the experience as having little value. Most students would be more likely to apply themselves if required to work, if only part time, to afford tuition. Colleges and universities shouldn’t be profit-making factories, but tuition shouldn’t be free. Yes, reduce the cost; no one should be saddled with decades of student loans, especially since many of these establishments receive governmental subsidies anyway, but don’t make the college experience meaningless by charging nothing.


What do you think? Should college tuition be free?  





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There is truth in what you are saying. When I read the first paragraph I was ready to disagree, but the more I read, the more I realized what you were saying was true. Maybe we should start charging for people to read our blogs :)
By: Rick Watson on October 16, 2015
A most interesting post and I am sure it will spark many responses. I believe in free education, however here has to be controls in place to make sure it is not abused!
By: John on October 16, 2015
There is much in what you say; we often do not value what we don't work for. The point about free tertiary education in the UK (which is now only available to Scots in Scotland) is that it was meant to help those who couldn't afford it. I believe the taxpayer should fund education for all who are capable - to a point. These days, I believe the value of degrees has diminished even though the funding has gone! Work that one out.
By: Mike@A Bit About Britain on October 16, 2015
Don't know why my comment was so cobbled up. Here is what it should read: All public education should be tuition free. My father used to jokingly say, you have not lived until you are in debt. The caveat to that was being in control of debt. College cost and the resulting debts are out of control. Extending your premise that it has to be earned, on that basis we wouldn't have valedictorians in high school. Granted, some fritter away their high school education, however for the most part the majority do not. You also neglected that most colleges have minimum past education requirements, as well as entry testing. Once in college, students must maintain a minimum GPA. Those who do not apply themselves, as you put it, will not be readmitted the next semester. Attending college is work. Out of control tuition and costs means only a select number can attend. Bill (
By: Bill on October 16, 2015
In all honesty most of college is worthless anyway. A lot of kids already spend most of their time partying, so I don't see that changing much.
By: PT Dilloway on October 16, 2015
My mother-in-law gave each of my boys a car and one let a friend drive it and the friend rolled it. Another son was a little more responsible, but he totaled it. The oldest left it beside the road because he never changed the oil. I see all the partying going on campuses today and the students aren't appreciating the financial sacrificing the parents are making. Yes, tuition is too high, but should not be free. If it is the students money, they seem to appreciate it more.
By: Linda on October 16, 2015
College should be affordable not just for those who either have rich parents who can afford to pay for their kids or those who go into serious debt. My personal experience with my children is that they did not appreciate their education til they paid for it.
By: Kathe W. on October 16, 2015
Rich people get it for free and at the best colleges at that, so what’s a guy from the ghetto to do when he can’t get anything but a minimum wage job, attend the cheapest college, and take eight years to graduate? As for the priest, I’m always suspect of the people who are making the money saying they’re doing it for someone else’s good. If you follow that to its logical extreme, the more something costs, the more people will appreciate it—either that or they’ll feel cheated, as with medical care costs. Maybe you’re onto something though. Nature is free, and how people appreciate that?
By: S on October 16, 2015
The earlier we start to learn that nothing is free, someone, somewhere has to pay, either in money, time, or work, for everything, the better off all of us will be. It's a lovely sentiment to want to give everyone everything they want for free, but there isn't enough in the world to do that. As you have pointed out, unless we work for something, paying for it, even if only a small part of it, we don't appreciate it much.
By: messymimi on October 16, 2015
I'm with you. Tuition should not be free but not such a rip off as today. After that we would start bickering over the right amount.
By: red on October 16, 2015
Some of our faculty are in their 50s, and still paying off college loans. After a whole career of teaching, they are still paying. That doesn't seem right. But college should not be free. We have been saving since our kids were babies so they could attend college. Without their academic scholarships paying half, we would not be able to afford it.
By: Val on October 16, 2015
You do make a good point and one I hadn't really thought out. I was all for free education but you might be right. I know I had to work for mine and was way less prone to party and play. Still it should be way more affordable.
By: Akansas Patti on October 16, 2015
Agree, not free, but much more affordable.And also more open and honest and fair. But ... how do we make it so?
By: Tom Sightings on October 16, 2015
Kids from rich families already attend college without sacrifice. If tuition were free so that poorer kids can afford to attend, they would all be able to attend without sacrifice - monetary sacrifice, that is. I'd say make college tuition free, but require a strict GPA to be able to continue attending. This would hopefully ensure that only the really bright kids occupy space in our colleges and universities.
By: Pixel Peeper on October 16, 2015
Hello there. I agree with what you. It's ridiculous how much it costs to go to school these days. A free ride is not the answer unless the kids have to earn it during the school year like work study programs. It would be great if the politicians came up with a solution but I feel it just makes great talking points during an election year and we will not hear about it for another 4 years. Have a good one.
By: Mr. Shife on October 16, 2015
I totally agree with you and I've seen this sort of thing play out. Three of my four kids graduated from college. They had to get scholarships and loans to pay for their education---we were unable to contribute anything. Yes, they are now saddled with student loan debt, but they appreciate the education they received. Meanwhile my brother and his wife spoiled their kids and gave them whatever they wanted. They paid for their children's entire college education. One kid dropped out after the first year and never went back. The other one was in and out of college for years but eventually dropped out just on year short of graduating. She got "bored." Can you imagine??
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on October 16, 2015
I think I'm right in the majority of commentors that think it should be linked to their grades; it pains me to see young people waste the opportunity. You totally right about "free." Some people assume it has no value.
By: Cherdo on October 16, 2015
There are people who are given an education and drop out. there are people who struggle to pay for an education and eventually just give up and drop out. I think education should be free, even college. just think of all the kids out there who don't even try college because of the financial constraints. given an education, the opportunity and they might cure cancer and those uninterested in getting a higher education will not take advantage of even a free education. oh they may go for a semester or two until they flunk out. you speak in absolutes when there are none. some people don't appreciate things that they don't work for some people do. I think youth has more to do with it or upbringing. my parents gave me a car which I greatly appreciated and they paid for my college but I didn't graduate. it wasn't because I didn't appreciate it but because I was just done with school and ready to get on with my life. the situation in this country with the high cost of college is that those who manage to pay for it themselves are in an impossible amount of debt at the very beginning of their lives! how do you overcome that? how do you establish yourself, buy a car, buy a house, have kids when you are starting out with crushing debt. the answer is you don't. and then there are those who don't even consider getting educated because of that. other countries give free college educations to their citizens and the result is a highly educated population, something that is sorely lacking in this country. if you don't like the idea of education being free, then require a year or two of service but not money.
By: Ellen Abbott on October 17, 2015
Agree, not free, but at a greatly reduced cost. I see this as a national security issue. We need a better educated population as there is SO much more to learn / know these days to be competitive in the world. We seem to think public education should cover 12 years. Why only 12? Scrimp now, and pay the price for decades to come.
By: Scott Park on October 17, 2015
Education should be "accessible!" An inability to pay, even a small amount, should not be a prohibition to learning. If not free then methods should be established so people can gain a degree without acquiring excessive debt. I love your reference to Power and the Glory. Greene is my favorite.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 17, 2015
Post secondary education should be made available to all. Cost should be subsidized or made available at no cost. Think of it as an investment. The corporate world must be involved in the educational system too. Their participation in developing and nurturing new skills, research and development are paramount to the future.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 17, 2015
If it was a college degree and the opportunities connected were being given for free, your premise would hold more merit, but just being able to go to college fore free is no guarantee of receiving something of significant value.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 18, 2015
As far as I know, there are state universities that charge minimally for residents. It's the private ones that are so expensive. I have no idea if getting something free diminishes its value. I'm always super grateful for anything I receive, especially if it's free 'cause then I feel lucky! But my education cost a lot and never helped me in life, so it was a big waste of money (BFA in Film). I intend to give away a lot of books over the next few years, so I hope they're not valueless because they're free, but you can never tell with people. Also, maybe it's a gender thing. I appreciate everything I own and take care of it. My husband is the opposite. Very interesting post & topic!
By: Lexa Cain on October 18, 2015
I'm not into politics. But, as I am Eastern European by descent, I have visited a Communist country where free compulsory education was required. Everyone was a Ph.D. and starving. Agree with you on the value of labor. ;)
By: Michael Manning on October 19, 2015
I agree with your concept of appreciating you work for, except I agree with Bernie if the free tuition is earned by superior grades, and maintained by continued good grades while in college.
By: Cranky on October 21, 2015
In Germany (and probably other European countries) University and college is free. They seem to be better educated and can speak more than one language plus kids who may not be able to afford to go, can over there. They place less on Football and other sports and more into actual education. I am a believer in free education. It is so expensive here and the kids still blow it-more than in Europe
By: Birgit on October 21, 2015
With a kid about to start college, free sounds great, but I also agree with you... And I like Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory"
By: Sage on October 30, 2015
Bull,your brother never asked for a car but I guess it makes for a nice story
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