The entrance of Bernie Sanders into the presidential race has thrust the idea of free college back into the spotlight. The popular thinking on the pro side of free college is that it would level the playing field and allow all students to get the advantage of a college education. The opposition says that it is another hand out for those who don’t deserve it and it hurts the free market. They also say that there is no realistic plan to fund this education and that is true.
Where this issue is concerned, I am not an idealist nor am I a pessimist, but actually more of a pragmatist. The actual belief that college is the key to your ultimate success is far from the truth. Since a college degree is necessary to “compete” for the limited jobs that are available and the need for a skilled workforce in any field cannot be guaranteed, it is not a good bet anymore. Furthermore, the colleges themselves say that the solution is even more education. In reality, making an undergraduate degree or even an associates degree free would just be like extending high school for another 2 to 4 years rather than getting the young people to begin their useful productive lives sooner.
Maybe the key is to look at our high schools that are boring the hell out of the average and the above average student and ultimately killing any motivation from the student who is academically challenged. In Finland, a country often praised for its education practices, students decide on their career before they enter their junior year. Exercising the decision making muscle earlier in life would be a far better idea than putting it off until graduation or even beyond.
I always end my classes with students, particularly those that I don’t know with the quote, “make good choices.” I don’t even know if the students really know how to make a good choice concerning their education and their future.