Free college is a bailout for overspending universities

Free college is a bailout for overspending universities
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Free college may sound appealing, but it is actually a federal government bailout for overspending colleges and universities across the country. Democrats are trying to sell it as a panacea for the high cost of college, but odds are it will just make the problem worse. The College Republican National Committee commissioned research to determine what issues young people care about most. Through focus group discussions and a survey of 1,000 Republicans ages 18 to 30 nationwide, young people identified three top concerns, none of which have to do with student loan debt. Young people care most about immigration, health care, and crime.

While young people believe that lowering the cost of college would improve their quality of life, our research revealed that concern did not translate into support for free college. Young people understand that free college is not really free. Someone will end up paying for it, quite likely them in the form of future higher taxes. About 45 million Americans carry a total $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, more than the debt levels for both credit cards and auto loan payments. The problem, however, is not the availability of credit. The problem is the wildly escalating costs at the campus level that force students to borrow more and more money.

Why has the cost of college far surpassed the growth in wages and the price of other consumer goods? Just take a look at the mandatory fees for “social justice” required of undergraduates at the University of California in Los Angeles, the “lazy river” water rides found at public universities in Iowa, Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana, or the highly paid administrators who outnumber faculty members at our institutions of higher learning.

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Economics 101 teaches there is no such thing as a free lunch. Goods and services must be paid by someone. With taxpayers footing more of the bill, there will be even less incentive for colleges to keep costs in line. Instead of attacking this lavishly overpriced system, leading Democratic candidates have benefitted from it. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren MORE was paid $400,000 last year as the Benjamin Franklin presidential practice professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Harvard Law School paid Senator Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Warren, Yang fight over automation divides experts Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE $350,000 for teaching a single course there.

Two overpaid professors lecturing the rest of us on how to make college affordable is like the punch line to a bad joke. New entitlements like free college are not the answer, no matter how enticing. Washington has spent too much money on too many programs for far too long. The American people are sick and tired of out of control federal spending. Government overspending has led to gigantic deficits and skyrocketing national debt.

Republican Senator Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount US ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Trump judicial nominee delayed amid GOP pushback MORE has proposed a far better solution that would require colleges and universities to pay off half of the balance of student loans for any of their graduates who default. Making schools take responsibility for outcomes is a good start. It may also stop them from admitting students eligible for loans who lack basic skills. Hawley also wants to make job training and certification programs eligible for Pell Grants, since a traditional four year college degree is not for everyone.

The Trump administration also deserves credit for proposing a cap on the amount a student can borrow, recognizing that an expansion in federal student aid leads to higher college tuition. What we have seen from the Democrats with their offers of free college and student loan forgiveness is pandering at its worst. My advice to them is do not bribe young people in exchange for votes. The way to make college more affordable is not by shifting the cost to taxpayers. It is by cutting unnecessary expenses.

Chandler Thornton is chairman of the College Republican National Committee and a graduate of American University in Washington.