We take just a few things in life truly seriously. It should be no surprise that they mirror our beloved Triad.
We’re serious about our Liberty – knowing that without freedom, we can’t reach our potential.
We’re serious about our Connections – those around us often have just as much effect on our lives as we do.
And, of course, we’re dead serious about our Know-How. What we know and what we’ve experienced are what set us apart.
It’s no wonder then that we get fired up about our education. Our books are our minds’ currency.
But the idea is under attack.
The enemy is camouflaged by the best of intentions.
The latest battle comes from the political sphere – where all sorts of presidential wannabees are promising free tuition.
Sounds great, right? In a nation being sunk by the weight of student loans, how could we be against free college?
Let us name the ways…
To start, let’s open our eyes. Let’s look around and see what college looks like these days.
Here’s a list of 10 real majors at American schools:
- Puppetry – University of Connecticut
- Adventure education – Plymouth State University
- Pop culture – Bowling Green State University
- Floral management – Mississippi State University
- Auctioneering – Harrisburg Area Community College
- Piano pedagogy – Belmont University
- Folklore and mythology – Harvard University
- Motorsports science – Winston-Salem State University
- Canadian studies – Duke University.
We’d be hypocrites to put down anybody for studying anything. While we certainly wouldn’t send our kids to school for puppetry or adventure, we won’t knock anybody for stuffing some knowledge into their brain.
But giving this stuff away for free – as some states are already doing – is a dangerous trap.
It’s proof that our lawmakers need to do a bit of studying of their own. They need to crack open an economics book.
A Dangerous Drug
Once again, they need to understand the effects of what we simply dub “other people’s money” (a term with a fitting acronym that aptly sounds like a mind-altering and highly addictive drug… OPM).
It’s because of OPM that our nation’s debt is through the roof. It’s because of OPM that the stock market melted down in 2008. And it’s because of OPM that our healthcare costs are soaring.
The fact is a dollar is worth a whole lot more when it’s your dollar… not somebody else’s.
A trip to the doctor’s office is the best example. We once visited a doc who would ask us about our insurance plan… and then make his prescription.
If we were paying out of pocket, we’d get one cure. If we were using OPM, though, oh boy, we’d get the works – blood tests, scans and maybe even a massage for our tired muscles.
Who cares? The insurance company is paying. It’s OPM.
The same laws of behavioral economics apply to our education.
As much as we want everyone to have access to world-class knowledge, using OPM to pay for it is a disaster in the making.
We could fill reams about why we’re so convinced of that truth (and probably will).
But at the heart of the OPM conundrum is the fact that anything that’s not ours loses value.
In other words, when the state pays for college, we value it less.
That means dropout rates will surge. That means folks will take longer to get through a program. And, worse, it means it will destroy the value of a diploma on the wall.
With the current user-pays system, schools are forced to think twice before spending money.
When students and their families pay the tuition bill, they balk when the price goes up. When the school spends $10 million on a needless new pool or gym, they’ll fight back.
But not when it’s OPM on the line.
The nation’s public schools are a prime example of what will happen. Many of them are mere monuments to education… multimillion-dollar displays of what taxpayer money can do.
In our home state of Pennsylvania, the property tax system that pays for these schools is a complete disaster.
Despite the name on the deed, homeowners don’t own their land… They rent it from the school district.
We pay $6,200 per year in property taxes… the equivalent of $515 each month. The only way to define it is “rent.” After all, if we don’t pay… we’re going to need a moving truck and a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Imagine the burden on taxpayers if our nation’s colleges and universities suddenly fell solely on us. It’d rip at least another $76.3 billion worth of OPM from the nation’s pockets.
Of course, we can’t just complain.
No, if we’re griping, we’re accountable for an alternative.
Our plan? Get to work.
That’s right. Get out of school and find an apprenticeship.
The benefits of an apprentice program are off the charts.
Students will not only learn real skills – not just how to make puppets or arrange flowers – but also get paid to do it.
In four years, they’ll have a strong, valuable skill that pays a good middle-class wage. And better, they’ll have no student debt and a likely head start on their retirement savings.
The benefits are equally strong for employers. They’ll get top-notch employees who are devoted to their jobs and trained in skills that no college can teach.
We could go on… We’re passionate about our Know-How. But we’ve made our point and are threatening to overstay our welcome.
Many will call us heartless for decrying these free-money-for-all plans. After all, it feels good to offer free college to all.
But there’s a better way… an economically smart way that doesn’t involve spending gobs of other people’s money.