The militant groups were advocate for free tuition, and now, with the Democrats in charge in Washington, they hope to advance football on the pitch. During the campaign, Joe Biden pledged to make community college free and provide $ 10,000 in debt relief, promises First Lady Jill Biden reiterated this week. Senator Elizabeth Warren and other progressives called on Biden to forgive $ 50,000 in student debt, with or without congressional legislation. Many European countries have for a long time free college.

Last week at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities virtual meeting, I attended a session on the “Free Tuition Movement”. President Linda LeMura of Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, discussed that state’s Excelsior program, which has offered free tuition to full-time students at public universities since 2017. I wouldn’t expect a resounding endorsement from that state. ‘a program offering free public school lessons from the president of a private school, and LeMura discussed the challenges the program posed to small private schools like his.

LeMura’s main criticism, however, was different. She argued that “Excelsior has turned out to be a largely regressive policy.” It didn’t really benefit poor students because it was a “last dollar program,” and poor students would already be helped by Pell Grants and other scholarship programs. Indeed, “the value of Excelsior increases with the gross income of families,” given the way it was designed, she said.

The program only gave grants to full-time students, and many poorer children simply need part-time programs because their wages are essential to family finances. Worse yet, it has pushed students into institutions without the higher retention and graduation rates in private schools, she said. Many of the socio-economic benefits claimed for Excelsior were based on the assumption that registrants would complete their four-year program and graduate.

Don Heller, vice president of operations at the University of San Francisco, opened the panel on free tuition, raising some of the same issues as LeMura: Free tuition programs and loan forgiveness efforts rely on assumptions that may not turn out to be true.

Specifically, if the goal is to provide opportunities for those who lack it, especially those who have historically lacked it, there are better ways to achieve this goal, such as increasing funding for Pell Grants.

As Heller explained to me in a pre-conference interview, “Loan forgiveness and free tuition is a great policy and a horrible policy” because, in part, the programs are not subject to restrictions. means-tested and therefore “you are giving limited resources to people who don’t need them.” he.”

Heller is correct that loan forgiveness and free tuition programs are a horrible policy, but I wonder if they are the right policy. There is no real problem, in terms of politics or politics, if a few wealthy families were to benefit in exchange for the universalization of the program. Wealthy people are also entitled to social security and health insurance, and the reason no politician has been successful in getting into these programs is that they are universal. Cuts to means-tested programs like Medicaid, food stamps and social assistance payments have all been made when the time to cut the budget arrives.

No, the problem with the loan forgiveness and free tuition proposals is that they aren’t universal because millions of Americans don’t go to college or because they don’t qualify. , or because they have no particular interest.

There is no doubt that those who obtain a bachelor’s degree know many benefits from there: better job opportunities, increased earning potential, access to professional networks, and many more. And too many people convince themselves that they deserve such opportunities because they worked so hard for it, the whole myth of meritocracy that Michael Sandel was expose as a moral fraud that threatens our culture and our politics.

These proposals are rotten for politics in both the smaller and the larger sense of the term. In terms of partisan politics, why should one tell the carpenter or mason, who does not reap the benefits of a college degree, that she now has to pay for those who do? If you want to increase the resentment in the class, if you want Fox News to have a field day, and if you want to woo a return of Donald Trump or Trumpism, forcing taxpayers to pay for mountains of student loans held by people who already think they are. better than you is how to do it.

There is a broader meaning to politics, not only about partisanship, but about the good order of society. It is as clear as day that the most dangerous dividing line in America today is between college graduates and those who did not go to college. Two weeks ago I linked to a trial by Marc Dann, Former Ohio Attorney General, at Working-Class Perspectives. He wrote:

Somewhere along the line we forgot that not everyone wants to wear a white collar or sit behind a computer. Millions of men and women want to turn hoes, dig ditches and sling concrete blocks. They are not embarrassed because they get their hands dirty doing backbreaking work. They love it, they want to be respected and honored for it, and they would happily break their backs for another ten, twenty, or thirty years if that meant they could take their part of the American dream. Working again will make more disillusioned Americans feel connected to the rest of us again. The bonus is that it would be a good policy. After all, if Trump had kept his infrastructure promises, he could still be president. Biden can’t afford to make the same mistake.

This divide crosses racial and ethnic lines. Increasingly, it also crosses gender boundaries. It’s more powerful than the rift between the super-rich and the rest of us: everyone can hate or envy Jeff Bezos. Only the divide between rural and urban America rivals that between university and non-university Americans. Both are politically exploitable and healing the nation will require that we overcome them and not feed them.

Politics at large will only be cured when those of us with university degrees relearn to respect those who work with our hands and ensure that our policy proposals include them. If Biden wants to write off student loan debt or promise free tuition, make sure the student farmer gets the same amount of funding he learns how to feed the nation – and how to qualify for grants on them. basic products! Make sure the plumber or auto mechanic has access to the same funding when they hire an apprentice. And if someone digs ditches for a living, find a way to make sure they get their piece of the pie, too.

Our U.S. welfare system is in need of an overhaul, and the problems with the free tuition and college loan forgiveness proposals detailed at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities meeting only served to dramatize this point: I was surprised to learn of the potentially regressive effects on these. the programs are meant to help. This discussion also indicated that our colleges and universities need to consider how they can reform to cut costs and better fulfill their mission, a related topic but also a very broad one for another day.

I loved every minute of every day of my college and postgraduate studies. My mom and dad were both teachers. I recently found my grandmother’s “Drawing and Crafts” notebook from Yale Summer Normal School in 1925! I enjoy education.

Politically, however, and for those who agree that preventing the return of Trump and Trumpism is the exceptional moral obligation of our time, it’s time to rethink the effort to forgive mountains of student debt and make the university more affordable. If the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Roosevelt is going to become the party of the educated college, and they alone, count on me. And don’t come and complain if Trumpism returns.

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