Recently there has been a renewed push, from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the "Million Student March" protests, to have 100% government funded college in the US, and similar policies under the banner of socialism. I thought the below tweet captured my thoughts on the matter well, but it also generated its share of negative reactions.
— James Erickson (@SayHiJames) November 12, 2015
One commenter questioned whether the author was advocating mandatory military service, saying "What's the point?" So I wrote down four points summarizing why the government shouldn't pay for your college (or most other things).
Point 1, Reciprocity: If you want someone to give you something, like pay for years of education, you should have to do something they value just as much in return, like spend years of your life working for them. This is what I did and the author did to pay for school, and as a Marine, he also faced a higher risk of serious physical harm or death in combat. Avoiding this principle encourages retrogressive attitudes and behavior.
Point 2, Fairness: Why should some people who did work for their education then be forced to pay for those who don't want to? This is not right or fair; you could call it social injustice.
Point 3, Charity: The biggest losers of a publicly funded education system are blue collar workers and those at the bottom of the ladder who cannot qualify, but will still pay for it, while the winners tend to be those who already start with higher income class, intelligence, social advantages, etc. to be successful in college; it's a regressive system hardest on those who need the help the most, while subsidizing those who already tend to earn the most.
Point 4, Destruction: When you consume a vast amount of resources (room, board, nice campus facilities, educated professors' time for 4 years) many people are working to provide, you should be forced to seek to minimize those costs and consider whether it is worth it; whether it will provide you with valuable skills others will actually pay you for.
Costs are real and destructive; every extra working hour spent providing college nice-to-haves is a working hour not spent farming food or stocking shelves or inventing safer cars or spending time with loved ones or a million other things. Confronting the costs of your actions is never a fun or popular idea, but that does not mean it is not a good idea. When many of my friends and I were forced to consider these costs, we carefully selected colleges that are less expensive since e.g. they had online courses or didn't spend on sports teams or other luxuries etc. and worked jobs in off hours to pay for them, while ensuring we studied fields that were in demand. Every time you separate people from responsibility to cover the costs they incur doing something, they will run up those costs, hurting everyone around them forced to foot the bill. (such as by attending a school that costs over $40,000 to attend, like Missouri) When you do this, everyone suffers with the economy, lacking everything that would have been created but was not, and often paying personally for it.