Making college tuition free would have unignorable benefits
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 23:01
Connecticut is one of five states that pays more to incarcerate its children than educate them. On the whole, it costs $12,000 a year to educate a child and $31,000 a year to incarcerate them. Paying for children to be locked up and further set back does not makes sense to me, especially in the middle of an intensifying debate on how to improve Connecticut's lagging school system. In fact, with all the money that could be saved by educating our children, it makes sense for all schooling to be free, including the University of Connecticut.
Though it is more expensive to educate a college student than a high school student, spending between 1996 and 2007 on corrections in Connecticut increased by more than three times, according to NPR. In that same time period, spending on higher education increased significantly less, from $557 million to $644 million.
There is more to offering a free college education than giving free rides to all who successfully went through a rigorous school up bringing, whether they "deserve it" or not. It's possibly one of the most effective ways to decrease income inequality in the country. It could be much more effective than any of our current entitlement programs in achieving this goal, and thus education reform is more than a reform of a school system; it's the reform of a society. Some find this frighteningly non-practical. I find it worthy of serious consideration.
Evidence for the positive effect that equal schooling can have on a society can be seen in Finland. According to the Atlantic Wire, the country has consistently topped the PISA tests, which test the proficiency of fifteen year olds from various developed countries in math, science, and reading comprehension, of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Developments (OECD), a club of rich countries. Finland is very different from the U.S., and thus shouldn't be copied as if it were a manual. However, the general conclusion I have reached from learning about Finland's success is that equality breeds quality in both education and society over the long run.
Many may discredit this claim by emphasizing that Finland is very different from the United States. As the Atlantic Wire points out, if one compares Finland to its similarly populated neighbor Norway, which follows an American system of education, it produces mediocre results. Moreover, despite the relative homogeneity of the Finnish population, its immigrant population has doubled within the last decade and there has been no decline in education quality, a problem that the United States may tout as particular to itself.
Growth with equity, in fact, has empirically been shown to be most desirable for development. The International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized United Nations agency, recently praised Brazil for its effective social policy implemented in a parallel fashion to its largely prudent macroeconomic policies. In fact, a recent report by the ILO on Brazil's unusual resilience to the world economic recession credits Brazil's emphasis on equality as well as sound economic policy for its success.
I encourage you to go online, access academic journals, and find out how much empirical evidence supports growth with equity, as one source should not be enough to convince you. I imagine you actually know that, attending a university and all. We live in an information age where knowledge and access to knowledge is valued. You are a creator of knowledge and can critically interpret it. The state of Connecticut is loaning Jackson Labs millions of dollars in anticipation of a handsome return on investment in a couple decades because it sees it as an investment. Connecticut seems to be very happy to fund correctional facilities at a much higher rate than higher education because it is easy to convince people that "bad" people should be in jail. Based on these "investments" in future job creation and public safety, I am surprised our education isn't paid for as well. I thought that we were investments as well. The state wants you to pay to go to school to invest in yourself. However, you can't invest in reading books for leisure, thinking for the sake of thinking, or really focus on learning, because of the issue of debt. If you and I are really "future" investments for the state of Connecticut, we should be treated as the investments we are. The state of Connecticut should provide a free college education for all of us, because we're worth it.