Even the Chronicle of Higher Ed is going after Bernie

This is about "College for All." On the back of my most recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education is an opinion piece, "Free Public College Is a Terrible Idea," by Brian Rosenberg. I presume readers of this critique are familiar with Bernie Sanders' College for All proposal. At any rate, you have to subscribe to the Chron to read Rosenberg's critique, so I'm going to have to quote the piece's primary arguments in order to critique Rosenberg, and to explain why College for All is still worthy of consideration. Rosenberg has a few objections, and an alternative proposal (expanding the Pell Grant). I will try to deal with them in an organized, readable manner here.

Rosenberg begins:

Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that the proposal is not both unaffordable and unenforceable without an unprecedented level of state cooperation and expenditure. Let’s pretend as well that it is more than bumper-sticker material and actually the product of careful thought. Let’s pretend that it actually could become the law of the land.

I'm always amused by these questions of "can we afford it?" Every year Congress hands the store to the Pentagon, and nobody asks "can we afford it." The states, moreover, waste money on prisons, money which can be redirected to rehabilitation efforts and... expanding state college systems. It's easy to afford College for All -- redirect some money that currently goes toward idiotic purposes. There will be enough.

Moving on, Rosenberg argues that free college would make public universities harder to enter. Here's the money quote:

Here is almost certainly what would happen if these public universities were to become tuition-free: The absence of tuition would sharply increase the number of applications they received and would make them even more selective than they are now.

Rosenberg continues:

Unless those elite universities completely changed their admissions practices, an increase in selectivity would benefit primarily the high-achieving students who attend private and well-funded suburban high schools.

One wants to remark at this point that the streets of America today are full of underpaid adjunct professors and would-be adjunct professors who have long since given up on the idea of making enough money to live comfortably while teaching America how to be smarter. The University of California, for instance, could have at least one more campus if all of these people were to be granted decent, well-paying university jobs doing what they were trained to do when they got their Ph. Ds. So as tuition becomes free, the states will have more Federal money to create more universities. At some point in this expansion, the underprivileged will receive a decent education. The states should want to do this already.

Another concern of Rosenberg's is that we will be funding a lot of people who will just drop out of college. Here's what he says:

Nor does anything in these plans address the quality and efficiency of education provided at public institutions, so the graduation rates at the less selective, woefully underfunded institutions would remain low or get lower. The current six-year graduation rate at four-year Minnesota state universities is 49 percent. Among students of color it is 44 percent. More than half of the students who would attend such a college free would not receive a degree from that college.

Someone needs to inform Rosenberg what those of us in the adjunct class know already: students drop out of universities because they can't find the time to work full time while going to classes. Free tuition changes that equation.

A good argument, of course, asks the question of "what would you do instead?" Rosenberg has an answer to that question. He says:

But any policy change should focus on ensuring that the greatest benefit accrues to those who are most in need, that is, those from the lower income levels.

Toward that end, Rosenberg recommends an expansion of the Pell Grant. The problem with such arguments, proposing charity instead of College for All, is that if we means-test our generosity toward those who are currently paying through the nose for college, we get three outcomes: 1) people slip through the cracks, being too rich for charity but too poor to afford college, 2) the programs become known as "welfare" and "entitlements" (and thus they become the topic of campaigns against them) rather than simply as a universal benefit of life in the land of the free, and 3) said programs are made subject to cutbacks. Universal College for All means that everyone supports it because everyone is a potential beneficiary. Everyone.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

is proposing free college - so take that!!

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“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

-- Voltaire

Cassiodorus's picture

@Raggedy Ann A long time ago I applied to the Ph.D. program in English at the University of New Mexico. They accepted me but offered me no funding. Perhaps New Mexico needs a buck or two for their colleges?

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"The degree to which liberals are coming to inhabit an alternate reality, impenetrable by facts or reason, is actually frightening." -- Steve Maher

Raggedy Ann's picture

@Cassiodorus
This was the first year in 12 that we got raises. Dem governor - go figure.

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“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

-- Voltaire

boriscleto's picture

The income requirements and 30 credit hour minimum made it almost impossible to qualify. $100,000 isn't a lot of money downstate...

Excelsior - a college scholarship Gov. Andrew Cuomo pitched as first-in-the-nation free tuition open to 940,000 families - only helped about 20,000 students in its first year, records show.

About half of the 103,100 applicants were denied, according to the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, which runs the program.

Another 26,000 applicants were accepted, but didn’t need Excelsior in the end because they had enough other scholarships. Several thousand other applicants declined the award or failed to sign a contract.

In-state tuition is $7,070. Room and board and book aren't covered, those cost about $13,720, additional fees add up to about $1700 on average...

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" In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "

Outsourcing Is Treason's picture

The answer to “how ya gonna pay for it?” is that this is an investment in the next generation that will pay for itself over time.

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"Please clap." -- Jeb Bush

About this quote:

Here is almost certainly what would happen if these public universities were to become tuition-free: The absence of tuition would sharply increase the number of applications they received and would make them even more selective than they are now.

Make it free and riff-raff will start applying? What did the CA pubic university look like when tuition was free before Reagan?

Last i remember when my son graduated from a pubic university, they had requirements for acceptance. Writer assumes free means no standards? Suddenly Berkeley will get a rash of applicants who don't qualify? Actually the logic seems to be that Berkeley will get more people who qualify thus make selection more difficult. Can't let that happen.

Last time I looked, Pell Grants were pathetic vs. the past awards. Will Pell Grants cover the complete cost of tutition--otherwise forcing even poor students to take out loans and back t where we were.

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@MrWebster
I'm not familiar with the details of Bernie's proposal. I had assumed that it was modeled on European systems. You have to qualify but you don't have to be wealthy or indenture yourself to the banks for eternity.

It seems that the detractors think that it means anyone can get in and stay in even if they get an F in every course. That, of course, is stupid, unless your name is Bush or Kennedy and you have someone else take tests for you. Just as long as your Daddy donates a million dollar building, that degree has your name on it, just like the building.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@MrWebster

I'm pretty sure that Basil Fawlty is writing for the Chronicle of Higher Ed under a pseudonym.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cassiodorus's picture

@MrWebster Here's a quote:

Unless those elite universities completely changed their admissions practices, an increase in selectivity would benefit primarily the high-achieving students who attend private and well-funded suburban high schools. Nothing in the "free tuition" plans addresses the capacity of these universities to enroll more students, so the applicants most likely to be squeezed out would be those from precisely the economic backgrounds that the plans are intended to help.

As I suggested above, there are whole universities walking around on the streets today, unemployed, because people don't have the money to go to college. The "applicants most likely to be squeezed out" can go to those universities, once they are organized.

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"The degree to which liberals are coming to inhabit an alternate reality, impenetrable by facts or reason, is actually frightening." -- Steve Maher

Wally's picture

The University of California, for instance, could have at least one more campus if all of these people were to be granted decent, well-paying university jobs doing what they were trained to do when they got their Ph. Ds.

Across the USofA there are lots and lots of PhDs who are trying to squeak by as adjuncts. Id like to see some study re. how many are stuck for how many years doing this. In addition, more and more PhDs are also trapped into successive post-doctoral fellowships. Even PhDs who have prestigious post-dostoral fellowships at Ivy League or other big name schools are finding it difficult finding entry level faculty assignments even in hard science fields.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally I guess this post was a "heat of the moment" thing -- I was reading my issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and this article really angered me, so... I responded here. Hope people who don't subscribe aren't too put out.

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"The degree to which liberals are coming to inhabit an alternate reality, impenetrable by facts or reason, is actually frightening." -- Steve Maher

snoopydawg's picture

It's easy to afford College for All -- redirect some money that currently goes toward idiotic purposes. There will be enough.

This goes for lots of other issues that we are told there isn't enough money for. The pentagon alone can't account for $22 trillion. Let that sink in. Then there's all the other military budgets that they waste at years end just so they can keep getting the amounts from the previous year.

The other thing that is never talked about at high levels is that we don't make anything here anymore. The corporations obeyed Wall Street and went searching for the almighty profit which hollowed out the country of factories. TVs, fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, etc aren't made here anymore as well as so many other things. How many defense companies have buildings in every state? This is pretty much all we make here these days. Weapons of death and destruction. Pretty damn sad that this was allowed to happen by our governments.

Here's another idea. Stop paying university big wigs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year and whola...more money for the students.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@snoopydawg

presidents' salaries--until money is diverted from the military/security budget, which is, right now, about 720 billion dollars (in non-dark money).

Or they could just magic money out of their asses like they did with that 16-trillion-dollar bailout.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Daenerys's picture

@snoopydawg are often the highest paid people at colleges. Barf.

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This shit is bananas.

edg's picture

I was the sole provider making $21,000 a year back in 1985 when we were putting my wife through college. She applied for all the grants and was denied because we made too much money. Meanwhile, her friend, whose father owned two shopping malls back when they were wildly profitable and was a millionaire, set her up in an apartment he paid for and she qualified for grants no problem because of low income.

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@edg

By the time I applied for financial aid in the late 80s, they were counting parental/family income until you were 24 in order to qualify for grants -- whether your parents were helping you or not. My parents stopped supporting me when I was 16, and I had to jump through a lot of hoops in order to prove that just to get enough in grants to help pay for a few semesters of community college, during which I also worked full time.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

essay of its own, so I won't expand further on your excellent points in that regard.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Wally's picture

@snoopydawg @Outsourcing Is Treason @Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

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@Wally And unless I missed something the military budget isn't touched in Bernies plan.

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Wally's picture

@pro left

It would have been good to include Bernie's military cuts in that table that focused on how he intends to pay for his proposed new programs.

There's discussion in this recent video where Bernie is being asked how his GND will be funded:

There was also a military cuts are bad article in neoliberal Vox where Bernie was interviewed and it was discussed on WoftheB here.

Here's an article in Politico that describes how Bernie has long been a foe of the Pentagon with a consistent record of opposing both Democratic and Republican presidents' military budgets and makes hay about his proposed military budget cuts will hurt his chances of getting elected: https://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/bernie-sanders-defense-budget-pen...

In 1995, he introduced a bill to terminate America’s nuclear weapons program. As late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon. And he says corrupt defense contractors are to blame for “massive fraud” and a “bloated military budget.”

Since he arrived in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been a fierce crusader against Pentagon spending, calling for defense cuts that few Democrats have been willing to support. . . analysts say he will likely be the biggest critic of the Pentagon to win a major party nomination since World War II.

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and efficiency of education provided at public institutions, so the graduation rates at the less selective, woefully underfunded institutions would remain low or get lower."

I don't follow Rosenberg's writings, but I'll venture a guess that he hasn't expressed any concerns about the quality of the programs at for-profit colleges which leave graduates bogged down with student loans for the rest of their lives and career paths that don't live up to the advertisements.

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