Like many people, I was skeptical of a proposal to make post-secondary school free to all. Perhaps I was hasty. After thinking about it, I’m not sure the price would be too far beyond what we currently pay for our public universities and community colleges.

First, it’s very likely not everyone will want to go. Education is not valued by a sizable portion of our population, jobs are available without post-secondary education, and other means are available to acquire skills, such as through apprenticeships.

Secondly, we waste an awful lot of money on federal grants to attend private for-profit colleges and universities. Much of it is wasted as indicated by a 14 percent completion rate. A practically zero rejection policy by the for-profits results in admission of students who just can’t do the work. For-profits don’t have much incentive to assure success because they get paid anyway.

If we use a business approach, we could pay for many more students than we currently do. To make this idea work efficiently, we could:

1. Limit choice to public universities and community colleges over whose budgets we have some control.

2. Use our potential buying power to negotiate favorable rates.

3. Eliminate reimbursement to the for-profits and transfer federal loans programs to the universal effort.

4. Institute more rigorous screening to assure admission only to those who have the academic and social skills necessary to succeed. Money currently spent on remedial education can serve more qualified students.

Better preparation by elementary and secondary schools will be necessary if we are to eliminate remedial education from college and university budgets and assure opportunity.

Dean Crocker
Manchester and Estero, Florida

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