Sanders’ college plan is too simplistic

While appealing, just “making college free” doesn’t take important issues into account.

by Jasper Johnson

Bernie Sanders and his cult-like followers often like to fetishize various European countries and their policies. His free public college plan is an example of such misguided policy. Obviously, there are issues in higher education that we need to address, but “making tuition free” is an unrealistic and oversimplified solution to a complicated problem.
The “tuition bubble” is an important factor in higher education, but people rarely discuss it. The tuition rates at American universities have wildly outpaced any other measure of inflation or wage increase. They are inflating into a bubble. 
This is, of course, due to the economic forces at play. When students are convinced that a four-year school is the only track to success and then given access to a seemingly limitless supply of loans, they’ll be willing and able to produce absurd sums of money to pay for school — whether or not they can actually afford it.
This stands in total contrast to Sanders’ plan to substantially cut student loan interest rates. While the interest rates are high, this is not without reason. Unlike other items purchased via loans (like cars and houses), no one can repossess your education. 
I argue that students’ loans are actually too lenient because they allow students to take out massive loans with no sound form of repayment plan in place. Student loans have become overwhelmingly burdensome for many Americans. We must address this by deflating the tuition bubble with sound lending policies, not wild shake-ups.
The first step is to combat the current cultural notion that everyone needs to attend a four-year university. Technical and community colleges provide many skills to students that result in careers after graduation. While Sanders focuses on Germany’s “free university” programs, he doesn’t discuss the robust manufacturing apprenticeships that are a popular German alternative to university. I argue that America needs to put more programs like this in place. 
Seemingly with no strategic advantage except adding insult to injury to the nation’s fiscal conservatives, Sanders will apparently fund his plan by a “Robin Hood tax on Wall Street.” 
Other than spiteful political strategy, it makes no sense to create more avenues of taxation to pay for Sanders’ program. A better solution would be to operate under existing structures. 
In general, while Sanders has certainly been an interesting far-left candidate, his plans are often facile and idealistic. Some find his populism refreshing, but I personally find him to be demagogic. 
Though we have many of the world’s best universities, there are many issues with higher education in the United States. We can’t address these issues with a primitive “make it free” response. 
Beyond that, comparing the U.S. to other countries and assuming that policy will translate across national borders is misguided. To address problems with education in the U.S., the government needs to do more to provide viable alternatives for Americans who don’t opt for college and to trace the tuition bubble back to its root causes.