Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Free College?

The NY Times has a piece on Free College. Now this is not really a new idea. Back in the 50s or so, when I went through this mill, if you were in New York City you did have several options. One was to go to CCNY, City College. It was free, but it was highly competitive. The best of the best went there. Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Poly, Bronx HS of Science, and a few Catholic Schools, but a very few. Back then Catholic High Schools educated cops and firemen, not scientists or engineers. A second option was Regents Scholarships and even better Regents Science and Math Scholarships. The latter were full tuition if you majored in Science, Math, Engineering and they were give out to only a few hundred students in the State, based on academic performance and a competitive test. That was my ticket to college.

Now the game is to give free tuition to those who cannot afford college, independent of any academic performance. If you are from the correct group you would get a free ride. If you were academically highly proficient then that would not apply.

Several observation can be made:

1. Performance seems to have disappeared from student support.

2. Tuition has exploded so fast that the modest amount supplied in say 1960, it was $1,000 I believe, would not buy books.

3. Room and board could add significant burdens.

4. What does the nation want for its investment? That perhaps is the key question. It should NOT be just to give everyone a college degree that has no value. How many communications, fine arts, political science majors do we really need? Probably very few. So if we d this then perhaps we focus on productivity and accomplishment.

This is a difficult issue. As of now the better institutions have found was to accomplish this. But they do so selectively and generally have some success. Making this another tax grab for everyone is not the solution.

There are many highly qualified students that fall through the cracks. That should be the target we focus on.