As an anointed millennial, it has come to my attention that certain political rhetoric and phrases are especially attractive to my demographic. Perhaps the most concerning to me, the word “free.”
The word free rolls off the tongue and conjures up visions of pure individual ecstasy in a field of unimaginable dreams. Even now, sitting at my desk, I am filled with crazy ideas of what I could be doing if only it were free. For me, I'd be fly fishing in New Zealand or traveling cross country, stopping at every music festival along the way. But, eventually, the florescent lights of reality spark me back into my desk chair and I realize that nothing is free and I don't think it should be.
This election season one of the particularly deceitful ways Democrats have chosen to use the word free is by promising free community college, debt-free college and the ability to refinance outstanding student debt. And to the Democrats credit, it is a magical mantra.
Free higher education and or the ability to get rid of the student debt I have already accrued. Heck yes! Where do I sign? Its free! How can it be wrong? I'd love to simply wave the magic entitlement wand and make all of my student debt disappear. Then I could go to New Zealand or music fest my way across the country.
However, one of those little annoying logical thoughts rises to the surface of my brain. Free higher education is not free, it will never be free and those who tout it the loudest, know best that it's not free.
Most disconcerting to me is the lack of conversation regarding the state’s role in a federal free higher-education scheme. The fundamental problem is, tuition costs at public schools are controlled by the state and determined by the state’s legislature. Any free federal higher-education program would require a state cost-sharing mandate. This means that any new free federal collegiate entitlement program would actually be paid for on the backs of state taxpayers.
Additionally, such a program would grant the federal government further intrusion into state education systems at a time when some states are trying to implement policies that are as local as possible.
I was not raised to see any true benefit of something being free, but I do understand the appeal. However, I caution those who would fall prey to the promises of free community college, debt-free college and the ability to refinance current student debt. At the same time politicians advance the idea of another free program, they are simultaneously shackling freedom somewhere else.