Okay, I fully understand that is isn’t “free.” Furthermore, I understand that it would be yours and my tax dollars paying for this college. And while it would mean that Baby Boomers and Millennials (and in-between) all just paid for their own college out of pocket and the generation to come would get a free-ride, I fully believe that college should be free to those that want it.

There are numerous statistics that prove that the more education one has, the better they do in life.

Look, I get it, I’m Jack Tardy, a socialist from Memphis, TN, and I’ve see the way that tuition has gotten out of control. It doesn’t have to though. I’m not saying that all schools should be paid for, just state schools. You can go to the University of Memphis and get an online masters in history for next to nothing. I’m not suggesting that schools like Vanderbilt should be free.

Here is where Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders (and hopefully presidential-nominee) stands on education:

Bernie believes that no student who is willing and able to go to college should be denied based on the income of their parents. The S. 1373: College for All Act, which he introduced, would make all public colleges and universities tuition-free. In an editorial for the Huffington Post, he asks: “Why do we accept a situation where hundreds of thousands of qualified people are unable to go to college because their families don’t have enough money?”

The cost of college tuition has become increasingly unaffordable for middle class and poor families.

How have tuition levels changed over the past few decades?

Currently, average public in-school tuition rates are over $9,000 per year. This graphic shows the change in tuition costs since 1980:

us-tuition-feess

According to USSA statistics, students in 1983 generally covered 23 percent of their own tuition costs. In 2012, they covered 47 percent. Part of this is due to a collapse in Pell Grants, which are scholarships for students that they do not need to pay back. When the Pell Grant program began in 1965, they covered 75 percent of tuition costs. In 2012, they only covered 32 percent.

But I know plenty of Baby Boomers who worked themselves through college. Aren’t today’s students just lazy?

In 1978, it was possible for a minimum wage worker to earn the cost of a year’s college tuition over the course of a summer. Today, that same worker would have to work full-time for an entire year – just to cover the cost of tuition.

Inflation is not the only factor that has raised the cost of college. In 1978, a meal that cost $5 would cost about $11.15 today – a little over two times more. But a year’s college tuition in 1978, which would have cost about $800, would today cost a student over $9000. That’s an increase of over eleven-fold. The financial struggle facing students today is real, and it is not due solely to inflation.

What has caused these skyrocketing tuition bills?

One theory is that the liberal granting of student loans by the government and private lenders gives colleges and universities room to greatly increase tuition without having a negative impact on their enrollment numbers.

Other theories revolve around the need for more of students’ money to feed the increased spending that universities have been indulging in. People in high-prestige positions within the institution receive pay rates similar to CEOs of large companies, extraneous “administrators” are taken on and overpaid for doing office work that does not directly relate to education, and a priority on spending for sport and recreation over education diverts student tuition into unrelated projects and materials.

All public colleges and universities should be tuition free.

How can providing free tuition help students?

With an average yearly in-state tuition cost of over $9,000, college students are looking at a financial burden of over $36,000 by the time they graduate college, and that is only accounting for tuition. The average student also spends nearly $1,200 on textbooks. After student fees, books, supplies, housing, food, and transportation needs are accounted for, the cost of college is astronomically expensive for all but the wealthiest of families.

Because of this, many families either avoid spending a significant portion of their incomes every year in order to save enough to send their kids to college, or students and families are forced to take out loans that can haunt them for decades after graduation. Unfortunately, too many students who are willing and able to achieve great things in university are forced to drop out or avoid going at all because they cannot afford the financial burden.

Relieving the burden of tuition fees on students and parents can greatly increase their quality of living and allow all students who have the potential and desire to achieve a higher education the opportunity to follow their dream. In 2011, people who worked full-time and had a college degree earned an average of $21,100 more than those who had only a high school diploma. Being able to attend college significantly increases opportunities for upward mobility and a better life for our children, which is a key component of the American dream.

How can providing free tuition for students help the United States as a whole?

Because college tuition is so expensive, many families and individuals are forced to cut back on spending and either save money for their children’s future college expenses or repay student loans with high interest rates. Sagging consumer spending can have a marked negative effect on the country’s economy. Therefore, by freeing up this liquid capital and allowing Americans to spend their income more freely on goods and services like clothing, electronics, entertainment, and recreation, alleviating the burden of college tuition will have a positive impact on the economy of the United States.

Perhaps more importantly for the future of our nation, an educated populace is necessary to stay abreast of growing industries, technological and scientific breakthroughs, and high-income careers. All of these factors play a large role in the health and prosperity of a nation’s economy. The education levels of a state or country are very often correlated with its income levels and GDP. By investing in an educated workforce, the United States is marking itself as a competitor in today’s global economy.

But why should education be a public good and not a private commodity?

Quality education is part of our basic human rights: because of the enrichment we receive by studying what we choose as well as the economical and employment opportunities we get, higher education is an integral part of the pursuit of happiness. Everyone has that right, not only those who can afford to buy it.

What does Bernie say about college tuition costs?

In a statement quoted by Bloomberg, he said, “We live in a highly-competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt.”

What policies has he proposed with regards to college tuition?

Bernie introduced the College for All Act, which would “eliminate the $70 billion dollar tuition costs at all 4-year public colleges and universities.” To qualify, states would have to foot 33 percent of the bill (the federal government would sponsor the rest) and take various steps to maintain or increase expenditure on improving opportunities for students and faculty.

But nothing is “free”!  How are you going to pay for this?

There are various measures that have been proposed to cover these changes. In the College for All Act, which Bernie sponsored, a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street would be implemented– a 0.5 percent speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds and a 0.005 percent fee charged on derivatives. These very small taxes on the financial sector would completely cover the cost of providing free higher education to all students who are willing and able to attend college or university.

Moreover, the cost of not providing higher education must also be factored into consideration. A more educated workforce is likely to lead to higher incomes and a higher GDP for the nation, which will lead to increased prosperity, wealth, and consumer spending in its own right. In addition, families and individuals will spend their income freely instead of saving it for college tuition or using it to pay back student loans. This rise in consumer spending will also likely have a positive effect on the nation’s GDP.